Bill Belleville, renowned Florida environmental activist and true Friend of the Wekiva and St. Johns Rivers died in Sanford in August. Bill served on the board of the Friends of the Wekiva River for several decades. He held the position of vice president and was actively involved in dozens of activities. He was particularly good at leading field trips and articulating the importance of conservation through references to native American culture, biology, literature, and his own spiritual connection to the river system.
Bill was a noted author of books and short stories about the beauty and vulnerability of central Florida’s waterways. He produced inspiring films documenting the splendor of Florida’s springs and rivers and their susceptibility to pollution and groundwater withdrawal. He was an influential speaker with an ability to move audiences with beautiful prose in speeches that blended art and science. As much as anything, he was a passionate outdoorsman who believed that to genuinely love and appreciate nature you had to deeply experience it.
A few years ago, Bill and Steve Phelan spearheaded an effort to identify what they called the “Hidden Springs of Black Water Creek” in the Wekiva basin. They used topo maps to estimate the locations of previously un-mapped springheads deep in the woods of Seminole State Forest. They then traipsed through the woods to see if these candidate sites included small springs that fed the Creek – several sites did. Afterwards, Bill and Steve led Friends of the Wekiva River field trips where Bill described the ancient ecology of Shark-tooth Springs, discussed the importance of the isolated spring runs to the evolution of unique species of snails, and cited poetry that unveiled the emotions he felt while immersed in those unique landscapes. Those kinds of trips were great experiences for novice and knowledgeable adventurers, and Bill led many of them.
Bill was a stalwart advocate, motivating communicator and an enduring Friend of the Wekiva River. He is already missed.