100 Miles Of …:A Coast with no Equal
At One Hundred Miles, we are dedicated to celebrating the special places and people that make our coast unique. Our “100 Miles Of …” series features the many local businesses, artists, educators, conservationists, and everyday citizens who work to make a difference for our coast in their own unique way.
Check back every month for new profiles. We hope you enjoy reading our coast’s stories as much as we do!
100 Miles Of … PROTECTING AN ANCIENT SPECIES
Ashley Raybould has dedicated most of her professional career to protecting one of Georgia’s most treasured seasonal visitors: the sea turtle. Through her work, she’s recognized the clear connection between the health of a species and the health of our coast,
“One of the reasons I find fulfillment working with the Georgia Sea Turtle Cooperative is that sea turtles are a species that utilize every aspect of the oceanic habitat over the course of their lives. Protecting sea turtle habitat ensures a healthy dune system for the eggs, a healthy gulf stream for the hatchlings and young turtles, a healthy benthic feeding ground for juveniles, and a healthy near shore habitat for nesting females.”
The life cycle of a female loggerhead sea turtle tugs at every inch of our coastline, making longterm protections for this species all the more critical. Work as a sea turtle technician can be isolating, especially when you’re helping keep watch over Georgia’s most remote barrier islands. So when you have the chance to make that connection with a resident or visitor to our coast, the reward is great. Ashley strongest message is to encourage people to get outside and engage with the natural world as much as you can. There is always something to learn: “Seeking more knowledge about the natural world is an important part of a fulfilling life,” she says.
When asked about her favorite memory on Georgia’s coast, she had the perfect sea turtle story, “Coming across a 300-pound ancient reptile laying eggs while the sun is still beneath the horizon has got to be my favorite part of the job. A particularly memorable morning was when I had the privilege of talking to Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter about the loggerhead nest that I was re-locating to a safer location and about their childhood experiences with nesting turtles on the beaches of the Georgia coast years and years ago.”
Ashley Raybould is a Wildlife and Sea Turtle Technician with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and helps to manage the Georgia Sea Turtle Cooperative. On any given day in the summer, you’ll find Ashley surveying one of our 14 barrier islands for nests, conducting a sea turtle necropsy, and educating community members about these incredible animals. What a reason to wake up in the morning!
100 Miles Of … OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN
According to Russ Regnery, there are a multitude of reasons why our coast is worth protecting. For one, it’s an increasingly fragile and narrow interface between our ocean and our mainland. When this habitat is disturbed, many plants and animals, like nesting sea turtles, do not have the option to abandon this part of their critical habitat. Protecting this stretch of land is something Russ believes we should all take personally.
“The Georgia coast in particular is ‘our coast’ and we are blessed with several relatively unspoiled barrier islands, large marshes, and maritime forests,” he says. “For those of us who visit or live here, we have the ecological and cultural well being of this coastline as our willing responsibility.”
There is so much to learn and experience along ‘our coast.’ Finding opportunities can be an exciting, fun, and a lifelong learning process. As a passionate nesting patrol volunteer on Little Cumberland Island, sea turtles are a great example to Russ of where a new appreciation for the environment can spark. Perhaps this is because some of our most memorable human experiences happen on the shore – witnessing a beautiful sunrise or Russ’ favorite mile, an undisturbed beach that disappears out of sight over the horizon. These experiences are a natural entry point to appreciate other ‘fellow citizens’ of our coast.
However charismatic sea turtles may be, to Russ, they are just the beginning. “The opportunities for learning and experiencing don’t need to stop with endangered or cute animals either. The coast is full of interesting and dynamic geologic processes happening in front of our eyes,” he says. “Georgia’s coast is ‘ground zero’ for appreciating the predicted impacts of raising sea levels and so much more.”
One of Russ’ most memorable learning moments along our coast was when he and a friend were walking near a gator hold in the interior of Ossabaw Island, “on an early, very chilly, perfectly quiet February morning. Suddenly we were startled by exhalation ‘woof’, or low frequency boom, emanating from an invisible bull alligator whose deeply recessed den I had inadvertently walked above. Note to self: the roofs of alligator dens do collapse; give gator holes a wider berth, even in winter!”
Take it from Russ, continue to get outside and learn something new – you never know what you might stumble upon.
100 Miles Of … SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD
The Wyld Dock Bar focuses on sustainable and seasonal ingredients. Their restaurant with a purpose business model is one of many reasons why they were the perfect fit for our annual Spartini Cocktails for our Coast challenge, which celebrates the salt marsh as our signature landscape and the small business community with a direct interest in protecting it.
“Working here at The Wyld we look out onto the marsh everyday. We are extremely lucky to do what we do and we want to help preserve our coast as long as we can. Not only are we located directly on the herb river, but we trap our own crabs right off our dock. We buy only local oysters and clams. The fish that we serve here on a regular basis – flounder, sheepshead, trout – all live in these waters, so it is extremely important for us to try to be conscience of how we treat our coastline.”
If we can bring our community together over a Spartini (or two) and make the connection between the resiliency of our coast and the health of our communities, we’ve made a step in the right direction. Building on the cycle of supporting our local restaurants and small business community while giving back to the coast is a win-win for everybody.
100 Miles Of … CITIZEN INVOLVEMENT
Julie Martin understands the bigger picture of why we must protect our coastline, “Its voice is only heard in the quiet sounds of water advancing or retreating along the shore or tidal creek and in the beautiful sounds of the birds and creatures that inhabit our coast habitats. The delicate balance of this precious ecosystem must be protected and properly managed as it fulfills a much larger role in keeping our health and wellbeing in good order.”
We all know the Georgia coast is fun and enjoyed by many – near and far – but it is more than a list of outdoor activities that we need to check off. It’s a resilient, fragile and well worth protecting. To her, “The next generation and each one after that needs to be educated and given a voice to effect the proper measures of control to safeguard harm to our coastal environment.”
As an elected official, it is vital for Julie to hear from her local constituents when decisions are being made both locally and at the state level. Community members must take an active role in local politics no matter their beliefs. It’s all too simple, yet often ignored as a priority. How can we work together to protect our coast if we are unaware of all the issues or might not know the best way to get involved?
Julie’s answer is an easy formula for community success: “Both sides of a issue should be heard through the process. There is no enemy, only bad decisions made. Community members should get in the habit of going online to check the agenda of an upcoming City or County Commission meeting and being informed on the issues being decided upon. Sign up to receive your local or regional legislator’s newsletter and stay ahead of the issues. Then communicate with those in positions of leadership!” Like Julie, we believe that in order to make effective change on our coast, we must be involved in every step of the process.
100 Miles Of … REAL WORLD EXPERIENCES
Debra Power believes in the importance of first-hand educational experiences. A gifted Science Lab instructor at Gould Elementary School in Garden City, Debbie teaches lessons that not only educate students but inspire interest in the coastline. She organizes a variety of field trips so that her students can better understand the animals and habitats outside the classroom. For the past two years, she’s brought a small group of her students to Capitol Conservation Day in Atlanta,
“It’s a busy, extremely rewarding day for everybody on the bus, as well as the representatives they meet with. We cover as much ground as we can when we get there.”
There she’s helped the young advocates navigate both the halls of the state capitol, and 1:1 conversations with legislators on issues ranging from the marsh buffer to offshore drilling and aquifer storage. These are experiences these students will likely never forget, and thanks to their dedicated teacher Debbie Powers, the lessons learned will help them continue to make their voice heard for our coast for years to come.
As a dedicated naturalist, Debra believes Georgia’s coast is worth protecting for reasons beyond the walls of the capitol, “The intrinsic beauty of our coastal estuaries and barrier islands are important not only aesthetically, but for all living organisms that rely on its ecological health and diversity.” To her, it’s important to recognize the human element as a large part of our natural ecosystems.
Some of her most memorable moments along the coast have involved her participation as a volunteer with the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island. Debra has had many opportunities to lead interpretive turtle walks to individuals, families, and groups as well as patrol 14k of beach with the staff. Nothing beats a real world experience, “The joy and happiness expressed by guests encountering a mother Loggerhead turtle nesting on a moonlit beach for the first time in their lives, leaves an indelible impression of how nature adapts to the presence and impact of human beings.” We couldn’t agree more.
100 Miles Of … ADVOCACY
Paula Eubanks is no stranger to advocating for our coast and the place she’s proud to call home,
“If we don’t, who will? There are plenty of folks who’d like to ‘invest’ in the Georgia coast to make money building factories, launching rockets, etc. We need to invest in preserving this special place.”
Her inspiration comes from the beauty of landscapes and seascapes on Georgia’s coast. To Paula and many other like minds, our coast it is a precious unspoiled resource. No where else on the east coast of the U.S is there so much land that is in its closest natural state. Most of our fourteen barrier islands are undeveloped and the nearly 360,000 acres of marshlands that protect them are rare.
Advocate and local artist, the Georgia coast is the most frequent subject in her artworks. She began as a photographer, but her work has slowly morphed into a combination of visual images and text – a new kind of artistic medium called book art. Paula is currently working on growing her artistic talents and combining it with local advocacy efforts. She and local geologist at Georgia Southern University, CJ Jackson, will collaborate on book art projects that highlight sea level rise on the Georgia coast with the use of maps and scientific graphs.
Her favorite memory on the Georgia coast was when she and her husband were preparing to leave Cumberland Island after a couple of weeks,
“We wanted to say ‘goodbye’ so we walked over the dunes, through the meadow and out onto the beach for a short walk but we didn’t get far. A few feet away a sea turtle’s nest was hatching and dozens of tiny sea turtles were scrambling up through the sand and making their way out toward the sea. It was a joyful experience to participate in their entry into the world and one that neither of us will ever forget.”
Paula Eubanks lives on Little Cumberland Island (LCI) with her husband. She continues to advocate against the recently proposed Spaceport Camden at the local and state level as this project would negatively affect her private property on LCI and overall quality of life near one of the most undeveloped landscapes on our coast.
100 Miles Of … COLORFUL EXPRESSION
Alexandra Nicole grew up on the Georgia coast where her outside experiences kept her closely connected to its wildlife and landscapes. She’d spend her days climbing tangles oaks, eating fresh caught fish from the creeks, swimming off the beach, and weathering every storm. These experiences have inspired Alexandra to defend and share her love of our coastline to the rest of the world through art.
When asked what motivates her to paint coastal landscapes and wildlife, her message was simple, yet profound:
“The ability to experience our coast adds an indefinable richness to my life. Sometimes the only way I can express this feeling is through canvas, paintbrushes, and a spectrum of colors. All I can hope is to give people the same feeling of complete happiness when they look at my paintings.”
Alexandra’s coastal outdoor journey never stops – she is continuously absorbing new information about the environment and expand her artistic skills. To Alexandra, sometimes the best part of learning is looking back to where we came from and realizing how it made us who we are today. Her favorite memory is one of her earliest ones on our coast,
“Boating through the rivers with my dad on our old Carolina skiff. I was maybe 5 or 6 and I absolutely loved when we would throw the cast net for shrimp in late fall. I remember the finger mullet attempting their daring leaps for freedom and the bright blue crabs I would cautiously toss overboard with a spartina stalk to occupy their claws. My favorite was the little squid. They always fascinated me the most – flashing a kaleidoscope of colors and jetting around the bucket, they’d occasionally release a dark cloud of ink to hide from my curious eyes. This and more was hugely influential in why octopus and squid are some of my favorite sea creatures to paint!”
Alexandra Nicole is a coastal artist and wildlife biologist local to St. Simons Island. You can see her colorful memories and experiences in her artwork at Art by Alexandra Nicole and on our Holiday Market website where she donates a portion of her coastal pieces every year.
100 Miles Of… INSPIRATIONOn a road trip from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to Apalachicola, Florida, artist Janet Powers was so taken in by the salt marshes of Brunswick that she decided to make Georgia’s coast her home. Since that fateful moment 18 years ago, Janet has built a life and business – The Gallery on Newcastle – in the Golden Isles with her late husband, Paul Stanton.
Janet never painted landscapes before building her home on the Little Satilla River. Now, using the lowlight of dusk, she likes the colors of Coastal Georgia’s sky, water, and land. From her home, she spots roseate spoonbills and the egrets as they feed along the marsh grasses.“The squeaking of seagulls, the fast moving storms, the light, the skies, and the way it changes the land… it influences me so much that I have to put it on canvas.”
Between her home and her art gallery – a historically restored funeral home in Downtown Brunswick – Janet brings a practice of caring for the land through growing, restoring, rebuilding, and recycling. “It’s my connection with the land – it’s spiritual. This land has been so good to me.”
100 Miles Of … CARE TAKING SPECIAL PLACES
The Georgia coast has always been home to Zach Mathews. In fact, his family has a rich and full history. His father’s ancestors created Mathews Seafood Company in Savannah, which has been a local seafood staple for over 100 years. On his mother’s side, his ancestors have all been caretakers of St Catherines Island. These ties have kept Zach strongly connected to our coast. For him, it seems like an easy decision that we as a community must take an active role in protecting our environment,
“I have a familial responsibility to help protect these lands, marshes, and waters. I want to help this beautiful land, remain a treasure for all to enjoy in a sustainable and conscience way. We must all move this mountain together. If everyone were active in any way, we could make exponential changes. Most people cannot see the effect of small change because they are not willing. The only way to affect change is to begin.”
Day to day, Zach continues to advocate for our coast. His coastal landscape artwork inspires residents and visitors alike to foster a deeper connection for this place. As a dedicated volunteer, he helped make our Tybee Reusable Bag Pledge a success by stuffing each bag with an important educational tool on how reusable bags can limit our every day plastic use. This sustainable topic in particular is an important one to Zach,
“I have experienced beauty and blight on our coast. Pick anything in your community and take your own initiative. Try to notice trash on our beaches and never walk past, and especially never add to it. Ask yourself why you need to use plastic or styrofoam. Reuse, reuse, reuse, and please recycle.” We couldn’t agree more.
100 Miles Of … INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION
Kristen Lipthratt grew up with this coast as her back yard. From an early age, she reaped the benefits of our coast’s beautiful beaches, walking trails, and unprecedented wildlife. Fast forward several years, she is now passing down her own coastal experiences onto her bright-eyed students, always eager to know more. For Kristen, it’s important for her students and the next generation to have an affinity for and a deeper understanding of our coastal environment,
“As a teacher, I have the opportunity firsthand to see how excited students are to experience the natural offerings for learning experiences Georgia’s coast provides. For them, the ability to apply what they have learned in the classroom to their own backyard is so exciting. Students thrive in this type of learning environment where they can clearly see life interacting around them. It’s our job as teachers to facilitate engaging experiences outside of the classroom and utilize the incredible resources that surround our community.”
If you asked her previous students, they would say Mrs. Lipthratt is always sharing, “…this one time!…” stories. Any and every time she can share an incredible experience, story or place with students, she does, “It’s hard to say what creates the spark for every student, but I work hard to give them every excuse to fall in love with the biology and life along Georgia’s coast.”
She believes the key to understanding life science, is to see it in action. As with all good things, these interactive learning opportunities take teachers like Kristen an immense amount of planning, but end with some of the most rewarding moments of the school year.
Kristen’s most memorable moment on the Georgia coast is getting outside with her students and being able to show them the beauty of this place, “Many of our students had never been in the marshes – we smeared marsh mud across our cheeks, observing thousands of fiddler crabs, and hummed to encourage periwinkle snails to emerge out of their shells. Seeing the awe in each student’s eyes has so far, been the highlight to my teaching career.”
100 Miles Of … CONNECTING OUR COMMUNITIES
John Bennett grew up in Valdosta, but the coast was never far from his mind. As a boy, his family vacationed to Savannah, St. Simons Island, and Jekyll Islands. These places were magical experiences for the same reasons that he remains enchanted by Georgia’s coast today: natural beauty and history.
As a coastal activist and executive director of the Savannah Bicycle Campaign, John understands the importance of keeping our coastal communities connected to its beautiful places, “I am excited by the potential of the Coastal Georgia Greenway. The economic impact of bicycle tourism has been well documented in other parts of the country and I believe the benefits for the coast will be enormous.”
In order to truly appreciate the coast, John believes people must get our of their cars. Once people experience our coast on two wheels, he expects them to become advocates for preserving and protecting our natural, historic, and cultural resources. Biking will also provide healthy and environmentally friendly transportation options for people who live in Coastal Georgia.
John’s most memorable moment on the Georgia coast was a chilly morning spent exploring Jekyll Island’s biking trails with his wife in October of last year. Interestingly, his favorite mile does not exist yet,
“It would be just one small part of a badly-needed safe cycling route between Savannah and Tybee Island. Extension of the trail, along new bridges with protected facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians would be extremely popular with nature lovers, history buffs, bicycling enthusiasts, and people who are all three of those things. Imagine riding through the salt marsh, stopping to visit Fort Pulaski, then continuing on down the trail for a swim in the Tybee surf — what a wonderful way to spend a day (or longer)!”
Today, Dr. John Bennett is the Executive Director of the Savannah Bicycle Campaign, a non-profit bicycle advocacy organization founded in 2008, and an adjunct professor at Valdosta State University. He lives in Savannah’s Ardsley Park-Chatham Crescent Historic District.
100 Miles Of … OBSERVING THE COAST
Bob Sattelmeyer first came to the Georgia coast 30 years ago, after having grown up and lived most of his life in the Midwest. Needless to say, he was not in Kansas anymore. Like most people who visit, Bob saw the coast as an idyllic vacation spot and a place he could enjoy with his family. He soon came to learn that the Georgia coast was unlike any other seaward town he’d seen,
“I was struck almost immediately by how relatively undeveloped the Georgia coast was, how unlike the wall-to-wall high-rise condos and beachside attractions that characterize other places, here, there were beaches, but they were on shifting barrier islands set in a sea of salt marsh and maritime forest.”
As a professor, Bob naturally leaned on his desire to understand everything about the Georgia coast – the geological and human history, the culture, and the land. He was fascinated with the history that made this place we know today: the pockets of Gullah-Geechee culture that preserve traces of African cultures and language, how landscapes were created by enslaved peoples during the era of rice cultivation, and how the complex ownership of islands created an incredible opportunity to preserve this rich, yet fragile ecosystem.
Bob understands that this same history teaches us the importance of protecting Georgia’s coast, now more than ever. He believes it’s up to those of us who love the coast for its beauty and relatively unspoiled character, and who cherish our native species, to do what we can to maintain this legacy of protection. One of his most memorable experiences on Georgia’s coast involves teaching this importance of place to his students,
“I was with a group of students on Sancho Panza beach on the north end of Little St. Simons. The horseshoe crabs had been spawning and the beach was covered with red knots and other shorebirds scurrying around oblivious to us and feeding on the eggs. We gave a talk about the importance of the Altamaha Delta to shorebird migration. They got it. It was pretty awesome.”
100 Miles of … EXPLORING OUR COAST
Holly’s favorite view of the Georgia coast is from the seat of her kayak. She’s explored our 100-miles for more than 40 years and is now a permanent resident of the Golden Isles. Over this time period, she’s seen how our coast has changed and understands the need more than ever, to protect it,
“As the years have passed and development has become a planning issue, we can’t lose sight of the potential harm it will have on this area. The Georgia coast must be protected because I want those who visit and live here now and, more importantly, in the future to be able to experience and celebrate the beauty of this place – pristine and unspoiled.”
Banding together plays an important role in preserving the coast. As an active member and volunteer, Holly believes giving your time and spreading the word about our coastal resources, issues, and opportunities is the best way to take an active role in local conservation efforts. In her own neighborhood, she has planted diamondback terrapin crossing yard signs with the hopes of educating neighbors and visitors about the terrapin’s nesting habits to reduce car strikes. Big or small, every action makes a difference for our coast.
Always on the water, Holly’s most memorable moment on the coast is kayaking 14 miles of the Ogeechee River with her family,
“The river was narrow, winding, with white sandy beaches around every bend. Ancient willows drooped over the banks, swallow-tailed kites flew above while fish jumped below. It was one of the most beautiful and primeval areas of the Georgia coast I’ve been fortunate enough to see. A return to Eden.”
100 Miles of … GIVING BACK
Cindy Miller has traveled by boat to many beautiful places, yet Georgia was the only place she and her husband Ken wanted to call home. To Cindy, her home on the Georgia coast is worth protecting as an economic, cultural, historic, and recreational asset to our state. And it should remain this way for generations to come.
When asked what lessons would you give to others with an interest in protecting our coast, her advice was spot on:
“So often individuals feel that ‘life’ impedes their ability to champion a cause or make a difference with an issue they care about. We know it only takes a small leak to sink a large ship and the opposite is true. It only takes a small positive action to make a difference. This may be something as simple as showing up at a public forum, donating an hour of time here or there, or sending in a few dollars. A small action by a large group of folks can have a huge impact on the conservation efforts for our beautiful 100 miles. It is important to encourage one another to do something whether the commitment is large or small.”
Cindy understands the importance of a community working together to identify local issues while promoting strategies. With the enormity of potential threats and opportunities popping up on our coast, our work cannot be done in a vacuum. From Savannah to St. Marys, we are a coast wide community.
As a dedicated One Hundred Miles Volunteer, being involved and informed about our coastal issues is her favorite way to be an asset to our organization’s mission in protecting Georgia’s coast. When she’s not on actively volunteering with One Hundred Miles and other local groups, you can find her cruising the coastal waters by boat with her husband, Ken, and their two dogs, Miko and Nikki.
Living aboard a 44′ motor cruiser for several months out of the year, Cindy and her family have been fortunate to see many natural wonders – from humpback whales in the Bahamas to North Atlantic Right Whales off our coast – they’ve seen it all.
“We have experienced many amazing memories along our coastline. Whether we were heading south for places unknown or north coming home, our arrival at Cumberland Island is always so special. The beauty, peacefulness and wildlife there make this stop our number one favorite of all the places we cruise and are often visited in the evenings by dolphins circling our boat. There are fewer and fewer places where one can experience so much nature in a pristine and unspoiled environment. This island anchorage is our happy place.”
100 Miles of … UNTOLD STORIES
More than just a place on a map, Pin Point, Georgia is a hidden treasure tied with unique history and rich stories of its people. Former slaves from Ossabaw, Green, and Skidaway Islands settled this small community in 1896 after the Civil War. Pin Point native and President of Pin Point’s Betterment Association, Hanif Haynes, reminisces on the way things were.
“Pin Point in its hay day and Pin Point today are two different things. I grew up in a religious oriented, close-knit type of community. Like any other neighborhood, we had differences, but we were and are still tied together today. We were like kin.” By tradition, everyone knew everything about everybody.
When asked why it’s importance to share our coast’s African American history with others, Hanif gave a simple reason: “The knowledge of what happened on these barrier islands. There are a lot of untold stories that are hidden in Ossabaw.”
Hanif’s rich family ties to the Georgia coast have kept him and the community of Pin Point closely connected to the outside world. “As we understand our coast’s history we learn more how important the barrier island is to our mainland. Our salt marshes, natural habitat, our seafood – it’s all very important.”
Some of his favorite memories were spent fishing in the salt marsh creeks with his cousins. To him, water and all of its surroundings played a significant role in Pin Point’s sustainability,
“We knew that our livelihood drew directly from the salt marsh. As a community, we had unwritten rules that protected the marsh and sustained our way of living. With crabs and oysters, we would only take what we needed. Now a days, there’s so much pressure to harvest, no one thinks about the long term.” Perhaps not how we define ‘conservation’ today, there’s no doubt that Pin Point was one of the first self-sustaining and conservation like-minded communities on our Georgia coast.
Today, Hanif Haynes wears many hats, but continues to bridge coastal Georgia’s past and future at the Pin Point Heritage Museum.
100 Miles of … LOCAL PRODUCTION
Planting, picking, and sharing fresh produce is a way of life for Harriett’s Bluff farmer, Dr. Gerard Krewer. As a retired University of Georgia horticulturalist, Gerard worked for more than thirty years trying to get Georgia’s blueberry industry off the ground. Today, Georgia is now the top blueberry producing state in the U.S. and Gerard’s personal contributions have been recognized with his own blueberry cultivar – ‘the Krewer.’
Gerard has taken his growing expertise and made it his own on Harriett’s Bluff Farm, an organic pick-your-own blueberry farm in Woodbine, Georgia. Coastal Georgia’s rich soils or ‘Sapelo Sands’ are the reason why he and his wife settled on the coast five years ago – they provide the best environment to grow organic blueberries.
As a landowner and Woodbine resident, Gerard believes that adding more public access points to our lands and waterways will reconnect and inspire others to protect our fleeting landscape. This sense of pride for our coastline was deepened by one of his favorite memories, “I remember watching three dolphins chase a school of mullet and breach fully out of the water, only forty feet from my kayak. This was on Grover Creek. Grover Island was one the first U.S. National Forests in 1799. Now it is in private hands and slated for development.”
When asked about protecting Georgia’s coast, Gerard was quick to reply, “There are nineteen million people next door in Florida. If we don’t do something and quickly to preserve more of the land in its natural state, develop greater public access points to the water, and protect our landscape, overpopulation will devour the Georgia coast like a swarm of hungry locusts.”
To Gerard, it’s important to take an active role in the protection of our natural resources, “If not me, who else will?”
100 Miles of … MAKING SMALL ACTIONS COUNT
David Herndon understands the importance of protecting Georgia’s coast. To him, the smallest actions can make a big difference: giving back and putting power in the hands of the customer. The heart of his business, Coastal Georgia Outfitters, directly benefits this special place – the rich estuaries, the swell of the surf, the tall pines and canopy oaks, the wildlife, and the people.
What started off as a small experiment quickly turned into a successful venture and has received an overwhelmingly positive response. Coastal Georgia Outfitters donates 10% of all profits to local non-profit groups who are committed to conserving coastal Georgia, embracing the “buy local, give local” concept. His collaborative work inspires artists, citizens, and creative minds alike to, in David’s words, “Do something.”
But his love for our coastline reaches beyond its beauty and natural resources, “This coast is important for my family – the beaches, the marshes, the water – it all provides so many opportunities for my wife and me to make memories with our children and grow closer to one another.”
As a newcomer to Georgia’s coast twelve years ago, David knew he had to experience our coast from the water, so he bought a kayak as soon as he could. One of his first memories was paddling through Postell Creek to Gould’s Inlet with his wife Whitney (fellow OHM supporter, neighbor, and local artist behind Grace Graffiti), “The water erupted all around us and we found ourselves surrounded by 15 dolphin. For the next several minutes we just floated and watched and listened. It was incredibly surreal.” This dynamic and beautiful water trail is also David’s favorite mile; it’s where he fell in love with Georgia’s coast.
Today, Coastal Georgia Outfitters continues to combine original art, our coast, and outdoor clothing to encourage people to learn more about our coast and support local conservation efforts.
100 Miles of… EARLY MORNING DISCOVERY
Raleigh Nyenhuis grew up on Georgia’s coast and has developed an intense passion for every inch. She currently works as a Naturalist Supervisor on Sea Island and has spent the last three years collecting data to help conserve Georgia’s sea turtle species.
When asked about Georgia’s coast, Raleigh immediately shared her experiences: “My most memorable moment occurred last June. During a dawn patrol, I came upon a female leatherback sea turtle. Last year, we had only two nests along Georgia’s entire coast. After the mother turtle carefully deposited 79 eggs into the sand, I stood behind her as she crawled back into the Atlantic. I felt so blessed to have witnessed a prehistoric creature doing what others like her have done for thousands of years.”
For Raleigh, education is the key to protecting Georgia’s coast. From the classroom to one-on-one conversations, she believes education fosters admiration for Georgia’s ecosystem and with admiration comes respect and the desire to conserve and protect Georgia’s natural wonders.
She understands the time is now to educate the world. “Without a healthy coastline, hundreds of female turtles would lose essential nesting grounds resulting in an even greater decrease in their numbers. Bird and marine species that rely on the nursery of Georgia’s coast would be compromised, if not lost.”
Her favorite mile along Georgia’s coast is Cumberland Island. “Walking along Georgia’s coast is healing. It turns a bad day into excitement, a heavy heart to happiness, a clouded mind to clarity. We need to protect the Georgia coast for the health and well-being of generations to come.”
100 miles of… TRADITION
Digging in the silty, sandy loam of Brunswick is a family affair at Gilliard Farms. This organically-certified Georgia Centennial Farm is run by siblings Althea Raiford and Matthew Raiford. Gilliard Farms was first established in 1874 by their great-great- great-grandfather Jupiter Gilliard. Today, Althea and Matthew are the sixth generation to farm the land. Spreading across 28 acres, the Raifords’ land has been free from pesticides and chemicals from day one.
Althea remembers a childhood spent climbing live oaks to watch sunsets, fishing, and crabbing with their grandparents off the piers. “I was the youngest child that was on the farm among my cousins in Georgia. This meant I was often times with my great-grandmother, Florine, who told stories of how our family had come to be part of the backbone of the community. She’d tap the rhythms of old slave songs and spiritual hymns with her cane on the wooden porch. Our coast matters because it is my home and almost every street contains a memory for me.”
In addition to farming, Matthew is an accomplished chef and Program Coordinator of Culinary Arts at the College of Coastal Georgia. “As a chef, the quality of the food I prepare and present has always been of utmost importance. As farmers, Althea and I invest all that we can into producing extraordinary food that nurtures the body and the being. Actually, my preferred title is ‘CheFarmer,’ which better captures what I’m about.”
Today, the Raiford family is committed to sustainably and responsibly stewarding the land of Gilliard Farms, keeping traditions alive for the next six generations.