Founding Riverkeeper Rick Frey considers himself a “river rat.”
As a youth with his 7 ½ hp Evenrude, Rick grew up on the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers in Pennsylvania exploring every inch from mouth to headwaters. For summer family vacations, he took his outboard to Connecticut and the Long Island Sound to fish, clam, and be immersed in a saltwater ecosystem.
In his adult years, while pursuing a long career in healthcare, Rick lived most of his life on or close to many of the major rivers on the East Coast including the Charles, Boston Harbor, Thames, Hudson, Potomac, and New River in Ft. Lauderdale, and during his teaching years in Atlanta, the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola.
Rick believes Rivers are an inspiring environment for adventure and spiritual path to self-growth.
Changing careers and retiring after 12 years as a science teacher in the Atlanta Metro Area, he and his wife, Linda, discovered the historic areas of St. Marys, Cumberland Island, the St. Marys River, and the beaches of Fernandina. They purchased an old millhouse in the Historic District of St. Marys and a boat to explore the River.
And explore the River they did!
From Cumberland Island to the upper reaches to the 121 bridge near Macclenny, FL. After grinding down his propeller, Rick found paddling and dragging the only means to Moniac.
“I was astounded at the beauty and wildness of this historic river, protected from land development by its remoteness and by the large tracts of tree farms which line the upper reaches on both the Florida and Georgia sides,” he said. “It was like going back in time. The environment was pristine, like the Rivers of yesteryear, bordered by white sand beaches, Tupelo and old growth Cypress trees, and tannin rich waters colored by the Okefenokee Swamp and miles and miles of pine forests embracing the majesty of the River on its meandering journey to the sea.”
With Riverkeepers to the north and to the south on all the major Rivers in Georgia and Florida, Rick wondered why the St. Marys was not protected by a Riverkeeper. Given its wild and historic nature and with the support of the St. Marys River Management Committee (SMRMC), Rick wrote a proposal to the Waterkeeper Alliance.
Based on feedback from members of the SMRMC, Rick interviewed key stakeholders from both sides of the River and identified potential board members for the Riverkeeper Board of Directors. The organization was established in 21015 to ensure a drinkable, fishable and swimmable waterway now and into the future.
Rick retired as St Marys Riverkeeper in Dec 2018. Under Rick’s leadership, the St Marys Riverkeeper established a bacterial water quality monitoring program encompassing nearly 50 sites within the watershed, as well as developing programs to address oyster regeneration and failing septic systems that affect water quality in the River.