One Hundred Miles 100:Community Advocates
Honoring those who lend their voice and resources to advocating for the vibrant communities of our Georgia coast
What do you love about Savannah? What do you dream for Savannah? And what will it take for us to make it happen? Those are some of the important questions being posed by the community organization Emergent Savannah – the driving force behind an increasingly-visible dialogue about the promise and future of our coast’s largest city. Since its founding on the floor of a local studio apartment in 2015, Emergent Savannah has grown into a social and cultural organization of activists who believe Savannah is capable of evolving into a more intentional community, where we can shine a light on the power citizens have to shape the future, while continuing to honor the past. Among many workshops and initiatives, their “Monday Means Community” series has featured reflections by coastal residents, storytellers, musicians, educators, and change-makers. Stay tuned to this exciting and dedicated group as they shift the narrative of Savannah, one voice at a time. The conversation continues…
Founded in 2016, the Fight Dirty Tybee campaign is already making a dent in the effort to curb litter on coastal Georgia’s northern-most barrier island. With a dual approach of both hosting community clean-ups and educating visitors and residents about litter prevention, the volunteer group’s mission is simple: Keep Tybee clean! Since launching in April, Fight Dirty has already hosted more than 25 clean up events, organized hundreds of volunteers, and picked up thousands of pounds of trash. Additionally, the members of Fight Dirty are working with the Tybee Island City Council to address the island’s overall litter problem with ordinances, voluntary programs, infrastructure, and awareness. As the newest organization on this list, Fight Dirty Tybee already has a lot to be proud of!
They say there’s strength in numbers, and for decades, the many individuals behind the Garden Club of Georgia have been advocating and influencing the state laws that protect our coast. Originally organized June 8, 1928 at the Biltmore Hotel in Atlanta, there were originally 29 member clubs and two members-at-large as charter members. Today, the Garden Club of Georgia has nearly 400 individual garden club affiliates representing approximately 12,000 statewide members. This strong network of conservationists helped advocate for the Coastal Marshland Protection Act and Shore Protection Act in the 1970s. Through the decades, their support has assisted with the passage or prevention of a myriad of proposals affecting our coast. Additionally, their members educate thousands of people – both children and adults – about horticulture, native plants, and conservation. Through their actions and voice, the Garden Club is a shining example of the power citizens have when they come together on behalf of the resources they love.
The Georgia Water Coalition is a group of more than 200 organizations representing well over a quarter of a million Georgians. The GWC’s mission is to protect and care for Georgia’s water resources, which are essential for sustaining Georgia’s prosperity, providing clean and abundant drinking water, preserving diverse aquatic habitats for wildlife and recreation, and strengthening property values. They were key participants in the negotiations over Georgia’s 25-foot buffer in the Erosion and Sedimentation Control Act to protect coastal marshlands from sediment pollution. Due to their perseverance, they helped eliminated buffer exemptions that would have negatively impacted Georgia’s coast. In addition, the GWC publishes the “Dirty Dozen List” every year as a call to action for citizens and decision-makers across the state. This year’s Dirty Dozen included three important issues facing coastal Georgia. The alliance is making waves – in a good way – for waters across the state.
Frank and Patty McIntosh are tireless advocates for coastal Georgia’s history, communities, and natural resources. As a team, they have dedicated their personal and professional lives to serving the well-being of the coastal communities they love through planning, advocacy, and action. A native of Savannah and an avid cyclist, Frank helped to found the Savannah Bicycle Campaign and served as its Executive Director for a number of years. He has also worked in land conservation with the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust. Patty is an advocate at heart, settling into Savannah as the Vice President of the coastal office of the Georgia Conservancy in the late 1990s. She later served as a planner and board member for the Coastal Advisory Council and Skidaway Marine Science Foundation. In 2010, she co-founded a planning and sustainability consulting company, Melaver McIntosh. There she worked with Gulfstream to develop a sustainability program and conduct green team training. Patty now works with the City of Savannah empowering grassroots action.
For 50 years, Hans Neuhauser has been at the forefront of protecting the wild places that we hold most dear in Georgia. Among his many achievements as Director of the Georgia Conservancy’s Coastal Office, Hans championed the establishment of Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, protection for Ossabaw Island, wilderness designations for Blackbeard and Wolf Islands, comprehensive planning for Sapelo Island, limited development for Cumberland Island National Seashore, wilderness designation for and protection of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, expansion of the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, and much more. Hans later served as the Executive Director of the Georgia Land Conservation Center, where he promoted voluntary, incentive-based conservation of open land for the benefit of present and future generations. He also managed the Georgia Wetlands and Streams Trust Fund, providing $9.6 million to land trusts to preserve wetlands and streams in Georgia. Hans’ incredible example as an advocate and coastal champion is one we can all aspire to emulate.
Last year, when owners of the Broadhurst landfill announced plans to store a whopping 10,000 tons of coal ash per day (that’s more than 3.5 millions of tons annually), citizen activists in Wayne County jumped into action. They formed the group No Ash at All (NAAA) to fight the proposal and protect their community. Since then, members of NAAA have worked with the Wayne County Commission, the Solid Waste Authority, the Environmental Protection Division, the Georgia Water Coalition, and others to influence policies, ordinances, and legislation that govern the storage of coal ash in municipal solid waste landfills across the state. The group has also established a legal fund to fight any federal permits granted for the project. Among their allies in this important fight? Former President Jimmy Carter, who last June penned a letter to help halt the proposal.
The Riverkeepers (Altamaha, Ogeechee, Satilla, Savannah) of Coastal Georgia serve as the environmental guardians of our freshwater resources. As steadfast community advocates, our Riverkeepers seek to preserve our most treasured resources and amplify the voices of concerned citizens on matters related to water quality for recreation, habitat, and public health. Most recently, our coastal Riverkeepers joined forces to defeat the proposed Palmetto pipeline, which threatened the entire coastal region and Savannah River watershed. They continue to work together and as part of the Georgia Water Coalition to address serious problems like coal ash contamination, illegal discharge into our rivers, and the protection of our drinking water in the Floridan Aquifer. Through education, advocacy, and action, they are dedicated to protecting and defending Georgia’s rivers. Because of their diligent efforts, our coast is a better place.
Take a stroll through downtown Savannah, and you’ll undoubtedly marvel over the moss-draped canopies and sprawling live oaks. These ancient trees tell the story of our coast – and for more than three decades, they’ve had The Savannah Tree Foundation to thank for their protection. As a 33-year-old nonprofit urban and community forestry organization with a mission of preserving, protecting, and planting canopy trees in Savannah and Chatham County, the Savannah Tree Foundation was the first in the nation to secure a single conservation easement to protect the historic Candler Oak. In addition, they led a grassroots advocacy campaign to convince Savannah’s City Council to preserve Bacon Park Forest as a passive use natural resource. They also recently planted 500 trees at the FEMA site at Westlake and completed a landscaping project on the east side of Skidaway Road across from the Wormsloe entrance on Isle of Hope. For Executive Director Karen Jenkins, trees represent not only our coast’s history, but our future as well. “We’re benefiting from the hard work of our ancestors from generations ago,” she says. “The question is, are we doing enough to provide the urban forest for generations 100 or 150 years down the road?”
The Woodbine Women’s Club is dedicated to protecting and enhancing Woodbine, a vibrant community 35 miles southwest of Jekyll Island. The community’s old railroad tracks have been converted into a greenway and has been adopted by the Woodbine’s Women Club. The club has put up bird feeders and funded bird houses in the area to recreate bluebird habitat and promote Woodbine as a renowned destination for bird watchers. Most importantly for our coast, the club has been an important convener of community dialogue about the connection between natural resource conservation and our overall quality of life. With help from “powerhouse” member Janet Heath and the entire conservation committee, the Club has quickly become an important voice for coastal issues throughout the region.