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#ProtectOurParadise Tourism Campaign Aims To Help Maintain Martin County's Economy, Raise Awareness About Water Conditions

Yes, our waterways are in desperate need of help, but there's still a lot to love about Martin County. 

That's the message local tourism leaders are working to send with advocacy campaign #ProtectOurParadise.

The Martin County Office of Tourism and Marketing, in partnership with Stuart Main Street, launched the second part of the tourism effort June 21 in hopes of drawing attention to local restaurants, shops and activities, while raising awareness about the condition of the St. Lucie River and neighboring waterways. 

“As the discharges [from Lake Okeechobee] continued, we wanted to follow up with something, and at that point we figured we needed to focus on what we loved from a tourism standpoint…that’s why we came up with the phrase ‘protect our paradise,’” said Nerissa Okiye, manager of Martin County Office of Tourism and Marketing.

The move preceded Gov. Rick Scott's decision to declare a state of emergency in four counties over the toxic blue-green algae blooms invading local waters. 

Though she’s only been a Martin County resident since 2014, Okiye says she appreciates the urgency of the problem—and knows how it can impact the economy. 

“I grew up on an island; my father was a lifeguard and fisherman, so it hurts my heart when we can’t use the water,” she said. 

The campaign will focus on promoting activities that can still be enjoyed by both visitors and residents: eco-hikes, kayaking at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, shopping in one of the many Downtown Stuart boutiques, and more. 

Though Martin County has yet to see a drop in tourism, according to Okiye, she fears towns will see little economic growth if similar advocacy campaigns don’t continue—a sentiment shared by Main Street executive director Thondra Lanese.

“Tourism is a chance for us to have so many more advocates for the river,” she said. “We need everybody rooting for us to help this get better.”

Information and updates on water conditions can be found on the campaign’s website, along with a list of ways locals can help. 

As part of the #ProtectOurParadise campaign, tourism leaders are also holding a contest, asking users to submit photos that capture what they love most about Martin County. 

“Some of the best photographs are taken from locals that love the area or visitors that take a stunning picture,” Okiye said. “It gives us a different way to tell the story of Martin County outside of pictures we may have had professionals take.”

The top 10 finalists will receive a limited edition Martin County Tervis tumbler, and the grand prize winner will receive an overnight stay for two, a $250 downtown shopping spree and VIP tickets to this year’s Dancin’ in the Streets. 

See the latest campaign video, below: 

(Photo via ProtectOurParadise.com/steven_shive_photography)