GIM July/August 2023

Page 1

History + Habitats

The Awe-Inspiring Okefenokee

The burning of Darien

The flight of Aaron Burr

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A local doctor provides truly compassionate care and proven solutions for chronic pain and complicated conditions.

Care Rooted in Empathy and Experience

Care Rooted in Empathy and Experience

Do you ever wonder what it is that makes some doctors so incredibly compassionate while others have a bedside manner better suited for the DMV?

Do you ever wonder what it is that makes some doctors so incredibly compassionate while others have a bedside manner better suited for the DMV?

In the case of Kyle Thomas, LAc, of Georgia Acupuncture it is a case of true empathy. "I suffered from cluster migraines in my teens and twenties." Cluster migraines are named such for their debilitating pain that is a step above the norm. "I had migraine headaches 3-5 days a week that were so intense I was often bed ridden and would become

In the case of Kyle Thomas, LAc, of Georgia Acupuncture it is a case of true empathy. "I suffered from cluster migraines in my teens and twenties." Cluster migraines are named such for their debilitating pain that is a step above the norm. "I had migraine headaches 3-5 days a week that were so intense I was often bed ridden and would become

A DIFFERENT

A DIFFERENT

physically sick."

physically sick."

Being that migraine is one of those complicated conditions not fully understood, Kyle's options were prescription medications that often did not work and to make lifestyle changes to limit triggers that often cause migraine. 'it was no way to live,' he shares, "I was young and should've been living a bright, vibrant life. Instead I was monitoring my daily life caffeine intake, avoiding long exposure to florescent light and doing my best to prepare for changing weather conditions.

Being that migraine is one of those complicated conditions not fully understood, Kyle's options were prescription medications that often did not work and to make lifestyle changes to limit triggers that often cause migraine. 'it was no way to live,' he shares, "I was young and should've been living a bright, vibrant life. Instead I was monitoring my daily life caffeine intake, avoiding long exposure to florescent light and doing my best to prepare for changing weather conditions.

As you can imagine, Spring and Fall were especially rough. We lived in Georgia, it was Winter in the morning and Summer by afternoon!

As you can imagine, Spring and Fall were especially rough. We lived in Georgia, it was Winter in the morning and Summer by afternoon!

It wasn't until his primary care doctor sent him to an acupuncturist that he found real relief.

It wasn't until his primary care doctor sent him to an acupuncturist that he found real relief.

"This is why I often refer to my practice as "The Last Resort With

"This is why I often refer to my practice as "The Last Resort With

The Best Results" You've been everywhere else an been given the same disheartening prognosis, prescribed the same medications and told this is just something you're going to have to learn to live with. Soon after his incredible experience with the healing arts he made the life changing decision to abandon the family business an pursue his doctorate in acupuncture, "acupuncture quite literally saved my life and I wanted to share that with the world" he proclaims.

The Best Results" You've been everywhere else an been given the same disheartening prognosis, prescribed the same medications and told this is just something you're going to have to learn to live with. Soon after his incredible experience with the healing arts he made the life changing decision to abandon the family business an pursue his doctorate in acupuncture, "acupuncture quite literally saved my life and I wanted to share that with the world" he proclaims.

Your Golden Years Should Be Golden

Your Golden Years Should Be Golden

While in school he watched his grandmother began to suffer from peripheral neuropathy. "your golden years should be golden, not plagued with insufferable pain while doctors and specialists tell you there is nothing they can do."

While in school he watched his grandmother began to suffer from peripheral neuropathy. "your golden years should be golden, not plagued with insufferable pain while doctors and specialists tell you there is nothing they can do."

Understanding that Eastern Medicine excels where Western Medicine fails, Kyle set forth to

Understanding that Eastern Medicine excels where Western Medicine fails, Kyle set forth to

"[Kyle] is just such a wonderful, unique person. You mention what's bothering you and before you know it, its gone!"
A local doctor provides truly compassionate care and proven solutions for chronic pain and complicated conditions.
SPONSORED CONTENT
"[Kyle] is just such a wonderful, unique person. You mention what's bothering you and before you know it, its gone!"

KIND OF DOCTOR

KIND OF DOCTOR

develop treatment protocols for all variations of Peripheral Neuropathy (including diabetic and chemotherapy-induced) and now has a 90% success rate in treating this once difficult manage condition.

develop treatment protocols for all variations of Peripheral Neuropathy (including diabetic and chemotherapy-induced) and now has a 90% success rate in treating this once difficult manage condition.

"I was tired of seeing the older generation suffer unnecessarily," shares Kyle Thomas, LAc. "Diagnosing them as 'just getting older' and giving them a treatment plan of you're just going to have to get used to it has never sat well with me so i wanted to offer them a real option for treatment and care."

"I was tired of seeing the older generation suffer unnecessarily," shares Kyle Thomas, LAc. "Diagnosing them as 'just getting older' and giving them a treatment plan of you're just going to have to get used to it has never sat well with me so i wanted to offer them a real option for treatment and care."

Kyle Thomas has designed similar treatment protocols for other complicated, chronic conditions including fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, post-shingles, even macular degeneration. While each patient plan is tailored specifically to that patients concerns and goals, all of his treatments are based on a framework that's twenty years in the making.

Kyle Thomas has designed similar treatment protocols for other complicated, chronic conditions including fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, post-shingles, even macular degeneration. While each patient plan is tailored specifically to that patients concerns and goals, all of his treatments are based on a framework that's twenty years in the making.

In addition Kyle isn't opposed to more modern medical solutions.

In addition Kyle isn't opposed to more modern medical solutions.

"It's in blending the time-tested science of acupuncture with recent innovations in medicine that get me the best results." One of those advancements is ATP Resonance BioTherapy", originally developed by NASA it aids nerves in regeneration by providing them the nutrients they need to repair and renew. "Very similar to what water does for a plant!"

"It's in blending the time-tested science of acupuncture with recent innovations in medicine that get me the best results." One of those advancements is ATP Resonance BioTherapy", originally developed by NASA it aids nerves in regeneration by providing them the nutrients they need to repair and renew. "Very similar to what water does for a plant!"

Kyle Thomas has a long personal history in complicated, difficult to understand conditions and understands how tragic it can all be if left untreated.

"I have sat where my patients sit. I've experienced their pain and suffering in a very real way. I know the frustration of feeling hopeless on an intimate level. It's why I practice the brand of medicine I do and why I've made it my life's mission to treat the 'untreatable'. It brings me such incredible joy when I get to say "I can help you!"

"I have sat where my patients sit. I've experienced their pain and suffering in a very real way. I know the frustration of feeling hopeless on an intimate level. It's why I practice the brand of medicine I do and why I've made it my life's mission to treat the 'untreatable'. It brings me such incredible joy when I get to say "I can help you!"

Kyle and his staff specialize in treating chronic pain, complicated neurological conditions and autoimmune diseases that leave other professionals scratching their heads. Ready to schedule? Call (912)-574-7053 for a comprehensive consultation today.

(912)-574-7053 for a comprehensive consultation today.

The Magic of Compassionate care

The Magic of Compassionate

care

And what do those in his care have to say?

And what do those in his care have to say?

"Kyle looked me in my eyes and wanted to know about me, not just my condition. I feel like a person not just a patient," shares Perry. "In fact i don't think he ever used the word patient." Others proclaim "he saved my life", "his neuropathy treatments gave me my life back," and "It's a miracle he treated my fibromyalgia, I don't know how else to explain it."

"Kyle looked me in my eyes and wanted to know about me, not just my condition. I feel like a person not just a patient," shares Perry. "In fact i don't think he ever used the word patient." Others proclaim "he saved my life", "his neuropathy treatments gave me my life back," and "It's a miracle he treated my fibromyalgia, I don't know how else to explain it."

Furthermore, Kyle has surrounded himself with staff that embraces this same approach to patient care. "You can ask anyone of my patients and they will tell you that their favorite part about Georgia Acupuncture is my staff."

Furthermore, Kyle has surrounded himself with staff that embraces this same approach to patient care. "You can ask anyone of my patients and they will tell you that their favorite part about Georgia Acupuncture is my staff."

"I just love everyone here" shares Betty, who has been a patient of Georgia Acupuncture for almost two years. "The girls are always so kind, It's like going to the doctor with my girlfriends."

"I just love everyone here" shares Betty, who has been a patient of Georgia Acupuncture for almost two years. "The girls are always so kind, It's like going to the doctor with my girlfriends."

Brunswick,Georgia
Brunswick,Georgia

50 THE AWE-INSPIRING OKEFENOKEE:

From the sea to the sky, this expansive wetland is a hub of life, and offering a unique escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday existence.

58 THE BURNING OF DARIEN:

Historian Buddy Sullivan shares the story of the controversial burning of the town by Union soldiers from Boston and South Carolina during the Civil War, a key event depicted in the movie, Glory.

63 THE FLIGHT OF AARON BURR:

The notorious Vice President certainly had an eventful life, which led him to the shores of St. Simons and St. Marys in the aftermath of his deadly duel with Alexander Hamilton.

70 HOME PORT:

The crew of OCEARCH is often found on the high seas, where they tag and track massive great white sharks for scientific research, but other times, they are docked in downtown Brunswick, which has become home for three of the mariners.

74 FLOWER POWER:

Little St. Simons Island is a hidden world of flora and fauna, and among the blooms is the hibiscus grandiflorus, a plant which fleetingly blossoms for just one day.

contents
JULY/AUGUST 2023 50 58 70 63 74 6 GOLDEN ISLES
JULY/AUGUST 2023 7
C O L U M N S & D E P A R T M E N T S 14 EDITORʼS NOTE 16 WORD ON THE STREET 19 COASTAL QUEUE 36 DUE SOUTH 38 NATURE CONNECTION 40 BY DESIGN 42 LIVING WELL 44 MONEY TALKS 46 GAME CHANGERS 48 THE DISH 80 NOISEMAKERS BLOSSOMINʼ BONE 82 COASTAL SEEN 8 GOLDEN ISLES
Join Us! Open House & Reception Thursday, July 27, 4-7pm
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Page Aiken and his luxury homes team specialize in Sea Island and St. Simons Waterfront Homes, Golf Communities, and Legacy Property Investments.

Publisher Buff Leavy

Editor Lindsey Adkison

Director of Advertising and Marketing

Jenn Agnew

Assistant Editor Lauren McDonald

Proofer

Account Executives

Contributing Writers

Dresses, Dresses, Dresses

Contributing Photographers

Heather Murray

Kasey Rowell

Joy Kendricks

Taylor Cooper

Dina Deason

Sebastian Emanuel

Sam Ghioto

Michael Hall

Larry Hobbs

Ronda Rich

Buddy Sullivan

Priscilla Boudreau

Derrick Davis

Terry Dickson

Ben Galland

Sam Ghioto

Michael Hall

Tammy Kavanaugh

Kyle Morgan

Selena Nix

Chris Ross

Carol Ann Wages

Department of Natural Resources

Illustrations

Colorization

Contributing Designers

Hailey MacIssac

Josh Dukes

Stacey Nichols

Donte Nunnally

Terry Wilson

Golden Isles Magazine is published six times per year by Brunswick News Publishing Company

To subscribe online to Golden Isles Magazine, go to goldenislesmagazine.com/subscribe

About the Cover: This stunning blue heron was captured by photographer Kyle Morgan in the Okefenokee Swamp. The location is home to many species of plants and animals with a ancient past, yet an uncertain future.

3011 Altama Ave, Brunswick GA 31520
10 GOLDEN ISLES 28 Market Street Suite 124 Saint Simons Island, GA (912) 638-5100

Submissions

Golden Isles Magazine is in need of talented contributors. Unsolicited queries and submissions of art and stories are welcome.

Please include an email address and telephone number. Submit by email to the editor, Lindsey Adkison: ladkison@goldenislesmagazine.com or by mail to 3011 Altama Ave, Brunswick. Only work accompanied by a self-addressed stamped envelope will be returned.

Advertising

Information regarding advertising and rates is available by contacting Jenn Agnew at 912-265-8320, ext. 356 or by email at jagnew@thebrunswicknews.com; Kasey Rowell at 912-2658320 ext. 334 or by email at krowell@ thebrunswicknews.com; or Joy Kendricks at 912-265-8320 ext. 333 or by email at jkendricks@thebrunswicknews.com

All content is copyright of Golden Isles Magazine, a publication of Brunswick News Publishing Company. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without express written permission from the publisher. We have sought to ensure accuracy and completeness of the content herein, but neither Golden Isles Magazine nor the publisher assumes responsibility for any errors, inaccuracies, omissions, or other inconsistencies, including those related to quotations. We reserve the right to refuse advertising. All advertisements appearing herein are accepted and published on the representation that the advertiser is properly authorized to publish the entire contents and subject matter thereof. All ads are paid advertisements and/or gifts given as part of a contractual agreement regarding Brunswick News Publishing Company. Neither Golden Isles Magazine nor the publisher is responsible for any statements, claims, or representations made by contributing writers, columnists, or photographers. Golden Isles Magazine and the publisher are also not responsible for anyone’s reliance on the content included in the publication. All projects described in this publication are for private, noncommercial use only. No right for commercial use or exploitation is given or implied.

3011
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or receive. No matter the size of your wrist, silver or gold, or a bit of both, we’ll make you something special and lasting.

Editor’s Note The Historical Rabbit Hole

Artistically hand carved, cast, & created here in the Golden Isles, our unique designs include bracelets for all wrist sizes, earrings, pendants, and The Perfect Fit Toe & Finger Rings.

History was my first love. In fact, it was my first college major. But then, came the tricky task of pinning down a profession … if I didn’t want to go into academia — what would I do?

Obviously, I went a different route, but my interest in the past has never waned.

Living in the Golden Isles these 16 years has been an absolute dream. There are so many fingerprints on this land, I could write a different story every day of my life and still only scratch the surface.

I will say, there is one historical happening that has always fascinated me — Vice President turned fugitive Aaron Burr hiding out on St. Simons Island.

I was interested in the story in my PH (pre-Hamilton) era, which only expounded when I, like the rest of human civilization, became enamored with the musical.

I plowed through every Ron Chernow book (the author who inspired LinManuel Miranda’s production) I could get my hands on … Hamilton, of course, then Washington, and though unrelated, Grant. Burr made appearances in the Revolutionrelated stories, particularly of course in Hamilton, but finding a post-duel Aaron Burr seems to be as tough as it was in 1804.

founder (and possible traitor) but one thing Mr. Burr was not — boring.

I hope you guys enjoy reading that feature as much as I enjoyed writing it — it’s been a long time coming.

But it’s not the only historical treat we have for you. We also have the incomparable Buddy Sullivan who was so kind to write an exclusive piece for us on the Burning of Darien. It’s a fascinating story and one many might not know outside of the film, Glory, a portion of which was shot on Jekyll Island in the late 1980s.

On the other side of our theme, Habitat, we have some equally fascinating articles. Sam Ghioto, columnist, photographer, writer, and outdoorsman extraordinaire spent some time camping in the Okefenokee Swamp for another of our features. This one feels even more timely considering the circumstances.

In our Flower Power piece, writer Larry Hobbs reminisces on a brush with a breathtaking bloom on Little St. Simons. And Michael Hall shares a sit-down with the guys of OCEARCH who have made downtown Brunswick their home — you know, when they’re not out tagging great white sharks. It’s a jam-packed issue and we hope it you love it as much as we do.

Your obedient servant — Lindsey

original St Simons Island Signature Bracelet and Jekyll Island Turtle Bracelet. #106PierVillageMarket,St.SimonsIsland

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So I decided to do my own digging. I started research for my Flight of Aaron Burr feature more than a year ago. But the problem was — how do we visually share this? Nothing physically remained of his time here, or so I thought.

Keepsake Jewelry from the artist of the original St Simons Island Signature Bracelet and Jekyll Island Turtle Bracelet.

The Golden Isles Bracelet Co. is a liitle store with a big reputation for fine locally crafted silver and gold jewelry. Sizes for all wrist measurements. The St Simons Island Signature Bracelet, Jekyll Island Turtle Bracelet, earrings, pendants, and custom-fit toe rings are included in the array of unique pieces found only here.

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One auspicious day I hit upon the Federal Quarters in St. Marys, where according to owner Keegan Federal, Aaron Burr stayed during his time in the South, while evading capture in fall of 1804. And I had my answer.

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With Keegan’s help — and the talents of fab photog Priscilla Boudreau — we’ve been able to bring this story to life. It also sent me down a bit of a rabbit hole, as I now own roughly 10 books on Aaron Burr with plans to acquire more. You can say a lot of things about this

14 GOLDEN ISLES Keepsake Jewelry from the
St Simons Island
Island Turtle Bracelet. # 106 P ier Vill ageM ar ke t, St. Simon sIs la nd (912) 6 3 8. 3636 www.GIBCoBra c elets.co m All pi e ces p r oud ly hANdc rAfted iN the b eAutiful Gold eNi sles An official sponsor of The GA Sea Turtle Center Located At #106 Pier Village Market St. Simons Island, Georgia 912-638-3636 www.gibcobracelets.com Keepsake Jewelry from the artist of the original St Simons Island Signature Bracelet and Jekyll Island Turtle Bracelet. #106 Pier Village Market, St. Simons Island (912) 638.3636 www.GIBCoBracelets.com All pieces proudly hANdcr A fted i N the be A utiful GoldeN isles.
artist of the original
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PRIMESOUTH HELPS BRUNSWICK’S SALT LIFE GET MORE SEASONING

Yacht owners in Brunswick Landing Marina can now add gourmet dining to the many pleasures of living on the water. That’s because PrimeSouth Bank helped the Schroeder family open a new market just steps away. Just like the Golden Isles, Schroeder’s Market makes the good life easy, with fine wine, freshly baked breads and seasonal prepared meals created by Keith Schroeder, a James Beard Award winning chef. Charles Woodroof, who says the market has a great “community vibe”, did the ground work to make their SBA loan just as easy. He is always a call or text away with whatever they need. At PrimeSouth, we work hard to make growing our downtown communities a breeze. In Brunswick, the breeze smells better than ever. Learn more at: PrimeSouth.com

L to R: Charles Woodroof, SVP Senior Lending O cer, PrimeSouth Bank, Nicki Schroeder and Madison Schroeder.

Cover

Jackie Strickland: I like it. Brunswick is in there!!

Lora Bright: Beautiful.

Barbara Ryan: Gorgeous

Xynofurniture:

Word On The Street

Your reactions sent to us by emails, posts, & tweets

TIME TO GET SOCIAL

Dream Design

@jymathews12: Beautiful, indeed.

@chism.trail: Now there’s a beach house I could get used to …

@ssi_preditor: Wow!

@emilyburtondesigns: Showstopper for sure

Spring scene

@stephaustin43: Love the location

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If you prefer to send us your comments by email, contact Editor Lindsey Adkison at ladkison@goldenislesmagazine.com. Anything posted to our social media accounts or emailed directly to the editor will be considered for publication. Comments may be edited for clarity or grammar.

Xyno Furniture

@moonbeam 2010: @Irae_classic:

Game Changers: Madi McMahan

Jamey McMahan: Love it.

Gail Huie Smith: Congratulations

Karen Manning: Congratulations!! You are outstanding. So proud of you.

Rhonda Lynn McDonald Wilson: Awesome

16 GOLDEN ISLES

Open to our members, resort guests, and the public, our championship golf course is set amidst stunning scenery, with lush fairways and challenging greens that will test your skills and keep you on your toes. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a novice looking to improve your game, Sea Palms Resort is the perfect destination for you. Our course is designed to challenge golfers of all levels and will keep you engaged and focused throughout your round.

SEA PALMS RESORT • 515 NORTH WINDWARD DRIVE • 912.434.5336 • WWW.SEAPALMS.COM

LINDBERG eyewear is ultra lightweight and constructed without any screws or rivets. The dedication to Danish design tradition and constant innovation has granted LINDBERG eyewear with over 112 internationally recognized design awards. Coastal Eye Care is proud to announce this frame line is now carried in our optical boutique.

18 GOLDEN ISLES GENERALSURGERY VEINTREATMENT-TATTOOREMOVAL (912)265.0492 www.stephenkitchenmd.com SILS™BENEFITS: •NoVisibleScarring •LessPostOpPain •FewerComplications •FasterRecoveryTime CuttingEdgeTechnology-FasterRecovery Dr.Kitchenistheonly surgeonintheGolden IslestoperformSILS™ SURGERIES: •Gallbladder •Appendix •Colon JACK JOHNSON M.D. OPHTHALMOLOGY SCOTT TREFTS O.D. OPTOMETRY 312 REDFERN VILLAGE • ST. SIMONS ISLAND | (912) 638-8652 • SSICOASTALEYECARE.COM

AN INFORMATIVE LINEUP OF THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE GOLDEN ISLES

Nature center offers guests outdoor experience

Places like Jekyll Island deserve to be experienced up close.

Preservation of the island’s natural assets allows visitors to escape into its timeless beauty and appreciate the role each person plays in conserving such a unique place for future generations.

Youth who visit the 4-H Tidelands Nature Center on Jekyll and families who take advantage of the numerous activities offered by the center’s staff have the chance to learn and experience firsthand Georgia’s coastal ecology.

Through it, they gain a better understanding of the ecosystem that makes Jekyll special.

4-H Tidelands Nature Center offers coastal ecology programs for the public and school groups, guided kayak tours, canoe rentals, and a live coastal species exhibit gallery.

Jekyll Island visitors come to the center throughout the year, including the busy summer season, says Dawn F. Zenkert, Tidelands coordinator.

“It’s a great way for students to learn,” Zenkert says. “It’s hands on.”

JULY/AUGUST 2023 19
QPhoto by Carol Ann Wages

Summer Crawl into

Summer Crawl into

The center is located at the southwest side of Jekyll Island next to the salt marsh, into which Zenkert regularly leads kayak tours. Participants climb into their kayaks at the center’s dock and paddle out into the tidal creeks that snake across the land.

It’s an intimate look at the island’s beauty, and during pauses in the paddling a tour guide will provide information about the salt marshes, the Georgia Bight, the coastline between North Carolina and Florida, and the wildlife that call Coastal Georgia home.

Dolphin sightings on the tour are common, and kayakers are also likely to see herons, egrets, wood storks, fiddler crabs, and much more.

A turn around a bend leads to unexpected sights, as tour participants find themselves in places rarely disturbed by human activity.

Kayak tours are only a part of what the Tidelands Center provides to its visitors, who can also book nature walks and or sign up for afternoon coastal ecology programs, like seining and wildlife lessons, that are offered four days week in June and July.

Entrance to Tidelands’ indoor exhibit costs $5 per person. The center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Students in the 4-H program from around the state also spend time during the summer at Camp Jekyll, the 4-H campus on the island. They visit Tidelands daily for programming as well.

Students in the 4-H program from around the state also

20 GOLDEN ISLES 912.638.2236 | 205 Redfern Village St. Simons Island | Tuesday-Friday - 10am-5pm Saturday - 10am - 3pmLoose Simons Island | Tuesday-Friday - 10am-5pm | Saturday - 10am - 3pm Loose Gemstones Gold & Sterling Jewelry Custom Designs The only jewelry store with an on-site Jeweler. 1982 Ons island 912.638.2236 | 205 Redfern Village | St. Simons Island | Tuesday-Friday - 10am-5pm | Saturday - 10am - 3pm Loose Gemstones Gold & Sterling Jewelry Custom Designs The only jewelry store with an on-site Jeweler. Established 1982 Jewelers On st. simOns island
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spend time during the summer at Camp Jekyll, the 4-H campus on the island. They visit Tidelands daily for programming as well.

This summer, Zenkert says, students enrolled in the online Georgia Cyber Academy will also be among the youth visiting the center.

Zenkert says the educational programming is meant to open visitors’ eyes to Jekyll’s natural environment.

“I hope they get a sense of the importance of the various barrier island ecosystems that we have, including the marsh and the beach,” she says.

Staff at the center include Zenkert and a full-time program specialist, Megan Makstenieks, as well as part-time staff and volunteers.

“Most of our volunteers, though not all of them, come from the College of Coastal Georgia,” she says.

Zenkert has worked for the University of Georgia’s 4-H program on Jekyll for 28 years.

The Tidelands Center opened in 2000 to expand the Jekyll 4-H program’s reach and make the educational opportunities accessible to a wider audience, including island visitors.

JULY/AUGUST 2023 21
Photo by Derrick Davis

“Our facility is here to support youth,” Zenkert says. “This building we opened so the general public can learn about the ecosystems here without necessarily needing to be with one of the groups staying there.”

Many who visited Camp Jekyll during their youth will bring their families back to the island and make a trip to the Tidelands Center.

“We’ll have many people who say, ‘Oh, when I was a kid I went to Camp Jekyll and I wanted to bring my family back here,’” Zenkert says.

Jekyll is a special place, she says, as the Jekyll Island Authority and state leaders have left much of it undeveloped. Island visitors are able to experience a natural environment mostly unaltered by the infrastructures of modern life.

“All visitors can enjoy the natural aspect of the island,” Zenkert says.

And that type of environment makes for an effective classroom for youth on the island.

“They’re future decision makers, so if they’re learning about this natural environment and the organisms that live in those ecosystems maybe they’ll make some better decisions about conserving it,” she says.

Zenkert regularly has the chance to see summer program participants express delight at the sights and sounds around them, like when a dolphin or manatee pops up along the kayaks during a tour.

“I just see the awe in the students’ faces in general when they’re immersed in the environment,” she says.

Kayak tours last two hours and are available Tuesdays through Saturdays, throughout the year. Nature walks last about an hour and are offered at various locations on the island such as the north or south end beach, available dates and time vary.

• To schedule a kayak tour or nature walk, call 912-635-5032. To learn more about the Tidelands, visit georgia4h.org/4-hcenters/4-h-tidelands-nature-center.

22 GOLDEN ISLES office: 912.638.1144 | 1.800.639.1144 | 105 Main St., St. Simons Island ST. SIMONS ISLAND | SEA ISLAND | JEKYLL ISLAND | BRUNSWICK SALES • PROPERTY MANAGEMENT • RENTALS Elizabeth S. Smith Marketing Coordinator 912.638.1144 Sarah Broyles Rental Agent 912.638.1144 Desiree Varnedoe Rental Manager 912.638.1144 Dana Hill Realtor® c: 912.272.4698 Emily Wages Rental Division 912.638.1144 Teri Moore Realtor® c: 912.222.4010 Freddy Stroud Broker c: 912.269.1144 Chrissy Johnston Realtor® c: 912.223.6430 Tina
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OF HERITAGE: LOVE

GHANIAN-AMERICAN BACKGROUND
STUDENT SHARES
Q
JULY/AUGUST 2023 23
FOR THE

NATIONALITY

My name is Ama.

I know my height, my age, my birthday, my two-syllable name.

But one thing that is harder to describe is where I come from:

My parents are Ghanaian, but I was born here.

So my Thanksgivings have turkey, and jollof rice.

And my closet holds jeans and kente cloth. I have a family here, and a family in Ghana.

Two languages. Two recipes.

Two flags in my life.

Two words I’ve learned to love. Ghanaian American.

24 GOLDEN ISLES

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AAma Kodua has grown up in two worlds. The Brunswick High School rising senior is the daughter of African immigrants who moved to the United States seeking greater professional opportunities.

“My parents are from Ghana, Africa, but me and all my siblings were born in Georgia. They came over to have better careers. They’re both in the nursing field,” she says.

The family lived in Atlanta, Savannah, and now resides in Brunswick. But one constant for Ama has been her passion for writing.

“I’ve always loved reading and writing. I think that might come from being Ghanaian. My dad would always tell us stories that he heard from there, and I think that sparked my love of storytelling,” she says.

“I like to journal and write down everything that happens to me. It’s a form of expression that has expanded as I’ve grown.”

It’s something that she’s found has helped her connect to and celebrate her heritage. One of the ways she’s cultivated that skill is through a dramatic writing class at school.

“It’s with Mrs. Bryson. We have all these different prompts we can choose from ... and for one, it was a logo, so I drew the Georgia peach and Ghanaian flag,” she says.

Ama also penned a poem to accompany it.

“My purpose behind sharing the poem is to help readers recognize that their culture is a gift, and not to hide it, and that I decided to share it after my friends in the dramatic writing class expressed interest in my culture when we all peer reviewed each other’s poems.”

Her African heritage plays a leading role in her daily life. Her parents have always spoken their native Asante Twi at home. And while she doesn’t speak it herself, she does understand it.

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“There’s really not that many people for me to speak it to, even if I did speak it,” she says with a giggle.

Another connection is the food. One of her favorite traditional dishes is peanut butter soup.

“My mom cooks almost every day. She always wants us to be in the kitchen learning,” she says. “I love her peanut butter soup and she also makes fried rice that’s really good.”

But perhaps one of the most accessible ways that Ama has been able to introduce her culture to others is simply by introducing herself.

“I think it’s my name ... a lot of people mispronounce it. I’ve heard many variations,” she says with a grin.

“But my name always leads to the question, ‘where’s your name from’ or ‘where are your parents from?’ ... something like that. It’s a way for me to get into that conversation.”

The name Ama in the Ghanaian tradition of the Ashanti/ Akan people means, “born on a Saturday.” That, she adds, is a common characteristic.

“My name, Ama, comes from the Ashanti/Akan people

naming their children based off of the day of the week they were born, and mine is from Saturday,” she says.

“In the Akan region, Saturday is blessed because it is attributed to God, and ‘Quame,’ the male Saturday name is another name for ‘God Almighty,’ so Saturday is a special day.”

Helping to educate others and sharing her background has become a driving force in Ama’s young life. And she feels it will be something she carries with her going forward. As an adult, she hopes to work with children as a doctor and — fingers crossed — as an author.

“I’d like to be a pediatrician ... and maybe write children’s books,” she says.

Wherever her future leads, Ama will make sure to take her African heritage with her and to encourage others to learn more about people from different backgrounds.

“It can be hard when you don’t have somebody who is from that same culture, but I think I’ve come to understand it as a good type of difference,” she says.

“When people express genuine interest in it makes me excited to share, because that means they’re also interested in me and what I have to say. I think it’s all about having a good heart behind it.”

26 GOLDEN ISLES 302 Plantation Chase St. Simons Island, GA 31522 912-268-2655 (office) 912-223-3257 (mobile) debbie@debbiebrittlaw.com debbiebrittlaw.com Estate planning for Georgia newcomers. Give us a call today. DEBBIE BRITT LAW

The Island Player’s Young People’s Summer Workshop will bring “Willy Wonka, Jr.,” to the stage in July, carrying on a decades-long legacy of cultivating interest and passion for theatre in the Golden Isles.

Youth ages 8 and up are invited every summer to audition for and put on a theatrical production, and during the summer-long workshop they learn more than how to memorize lines, build sets, or sing on stage. The program aims to help them appreciate theatre in a new way and to find confidence on stage and off it.

The Island Players was formed almost 70 years ago to promote theatre in the Golden Isles. A major part of the nonprofit’s mission is education. Two programs — the Teen Actors Guild and the Young People’s Summer Workshop — emphasize this purpose.

The Young People’s Summer Workshop began in 1975. Tammy Kavanaugh, who serves on the committee overseeing the workshop, has been involved in the program for many years. Her own children spent their summers years ago at the workshop, and she’s seen how the program positively impacts its young participants.

“I’ve been doing this for 18 years with the Young People’s Summer Workshop, producing a lot of it and then just being behind the scenes helping out,” she says.

There are a variety of ways the youth are able to get involved,

Q

from actors on stage to crew members behind the scenes.

“The purpose of the program is to give young people an outlet where they can bring their talents to the forefront,” says Mark Semmelmayer, a board member.

The youth spend about 10 weeks preparing for their production, beginning with auditions in May.

“Everyone who auditions makes it,” Kavanaugh says. “You’re not guaranteed a speaking part, but you’re guaranteed to be on stage a lot.”

The productions chosen each year provide the opportunity for a large number of actors to be on stage, to ensure many students get to have that experience.

“We try to pick a show that has a lot of speaking parts and has a lot of characters because we want as many characters as possible in our show,” Kavanaugh says. “That gives our kids a lot more opportunity to be on stage, to speak, to sing. It’s all about the kids.”

Rehearsals begin the first week of June each year, and the student actors put on a show each July.

The Island Players’ youth-focused programs also allow older students to mentor younger ones, Kavanaugh says.

Island Players to continue summer tradition JULY/AUGUST 2023 27

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“The older children work with the younger children, so the ones that have been around a lot, they learn from them,” she says. “And Mr. Jeff Dempsey is our director, and he is amazing working with these kids. He’s been on stage forever, since he could walk.”

Dempsey also participated in the Young People’s Summer Workshop when he was young, she says, and learned from Joan Harris, a longtime leader and educator for the workshop and the Island Players.

The program fits nicely into the Island Players’ overall goal of promoting the local arts, Semmelmayer says.

“It is a very concerted community effort to keep theatre arts alive and well in the Golden Isles, to give kids an opportunity to explore something they might not otherwise have a chance to explore,” he says.

The Island Players also raises money for an annual youth scholarship program for students planning to study performing arts at the collegiate level.

Kavanaugh hopes the workshop’s participants end the summer excited about their experience.

“We also hope they learn stage presence and that they have more confidence when they leave,” she says. “They’ll know how to make friends, and we hope that they’ve met people they would never met if they hadn’t been there.”

In a world of cellphones and screens, it’s beneficial for young people to have this kind of social experience, she says.

“This is a face-to-face experience that helps learn those social skills and how to use your voice,” she says.

• The Island Players’ Young People’s Summer Workshop will stage “Willy Wonka, Jr.,” July 12-23 at the Casino Theater, 550 Beachview Dr., St. Simons Island. Tickets for the show can be purchased in advance online at www.theislandplayers.com.

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Packing for Fun in the Sun

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Straw sun visor — this topper keeps the sun out of your eyes as you’re hanging poolside.

The carefree days of summer have at long last returned. And, as we well know, this is prime time in the Golden Isles. While there are many popular pastimes locally, there’s a one that consistently proves to be the hottest of hot spots — the beach.

From Great Dunes Park on Jekyll to the Coast Guard Beach on St. Simons, there’s no shortage of sand for those looking to take in our sweeping seaside.

But before heading out, you have to prep.

Luckily, we have some local experts who have the perfect pieces to pack in your beach bag (including the bags themselves). Read on to discover both posh and practical items that are key for a fabulous day by the sea:

The Estrada Tote — it’s a multi-functional option, perfect for tooling around town or hitting the beach.

OkaB sandals — these shoes work for wear at the pool, for the beach, or for simply lounging around the house.

Sun Bum sunscreen — we all know how important it is to protect our skin from the sun’s harsh rays. This sunscreen does the trick.

Microfiber beach towel — a quick-dry towel helps beach or boat-goers dry out.

Sunglasses and case — these polarized sunglasses can be paired with a silicone pouch to keep your peepers safe.

Teleties hair tie and clip

accessories are perfect for pulling up your hair during a hot day.

— these
JULY/AUGUST 2023 29
Q

Colorful Coastin’ from Two Friends

Fouta — this fun, colorful fouta is multi-purpose, a beach throw, a sarong or even a tablecloth. The pattern is also eye-catching and super chic.

Dream Big — this book, Dream Big , by Bob Goff, will give you a bit of inspiration as you relax.

Classic striped beach bag — this bag is both sturdy and fashionable. Plus it can hold everything needed for a dayat the beach or poolside.

Coral hat — this piece coordinates beautifully with the fouta, and it’s so lightweight you won’t be hot while you sunbathe. It also offers great face coverage.

— here’s a perfect pop of

Jelly slides pink to your look. They can even go into the ocean with you.

Sunshine tumbler

“Made for Sunshine” stainless steel tumbler is the best way to keep your water (or wine) chilled on a hot summer day.

Sunshine — this “Made steel to chilled

30 GOLDEN ISLES

American Fishing Tackle Co. Top

Caster straw hat —  This AFTCO straw hat is both fab and functional. It offers a tight-weave pattern which promotes full-coverage with a 360° brim to protect one’s face under the blazing sun.

Vacation Vibes from  Lady and Gentlemen Outfitters

Aetrex slides — These trendy slides are waterproof (which is key) and they also offer arch support for long strolls along the beach or the boardwalk. They come in this nice neutral shade or in classic black.

Ray-Ban pink aviators — These sunglasses have it all. They offer fantastic protection for your peepers in the classic aviator style, but with a twist — a pop of pink. And if that’s not your jam, there’s an assortment of non-pink frames to choose from.

Spartina 449 beach towel — This illustrated towel offers illustrations of some key islands along the coast, including St. Simons. It’s a fab way to create a sweet escape whether you’re soaking up the sun on Jekyll Island or on a trip to the Bahamas. Another plus, a portion of the sale proceeds benefit the Daufuskie Island Historical Foundation in South Carolina.

Teleties claw clips — With a 90s throwback vibe, these hair clips are on trend and the perfect shades to celebrate some island time.

Spartina 449 hair ties — Based in South Carolina, the Spartina 449 brand melds low country class and colors throughout its merchandise. And these Teleties hair accessories are no exception. They offer a quick, easy (and painless) way to stay cool on a toasty day.

Mary Square “Happy” tumbler — No day at the beach or by the pool would be complete without a little something to sip on. And this tumbler offer the perfect way to enjoy your beverage. It keeps drinks cold for 24 hours or warm for 12 hours. It’s the bright, bold way to bring some happy to your beach day.

JULY/AUGUST 2023 31

Around the Town

july

July 4

The St. Simons Island Sunshine Festival will be held around the Pier Village on St. Simons Island. A 5K and 1-mile fun run, hosted by the Golden Isles Track Club, will begin at 7 a.m. in Mallery Park. There will be a golf cart parade at 2 p.m. beginning at the park and proceeding down the street toward the pier. At 9 p.m., fireworks will be set off over the ocean. For details, visit goldenisles.com.

Brunswick’s Old Fashioned 4th of July will be held at 4 p.m. with a parade along Newcastle Street to Mary Ross Waterfront Park in downtown Brunswick. Watermelon slices, food trucks, live music, and fireworks will be a part of the celebration. The annual pet parade begins at 5 p.m. followed by the singing of the National Anthem by Annie Akins and a play performance from the Penguin Project. Live music from Squirt Gun will begin at 7 p.m. and at 9 p.m., fireworks will be set off over the East River.

The Jekyll Island Authority will host a fireworks display over the ocean, beginning at 9 p.m. Attendees should secure a parking space at Great Dunes or Oceanview Beach Park on Jekyll Island. The Jekyll Island parking fee will be increased by $4 to all daily and weekly passes on July 4th only. For details, visit jekyllisland.com.

July 7

First Friday, a monthly downtown block party, will be held from 5:30 to 8 p.m. in and around Newcastle Street in downtown Brunswick. For details, visit discover-brunswick.com.

The Coastal Photographer’s Guild will host its 15th annual Big Photo Show at SoGlo Gallery, 1413 Newcastle St., Brunswick. Members will showcase their work. The exhibition will be open from 5 to 8 p.m. during the month’s First Friday event. Prizes will be awarded in various categories. For details, visit coastalphotographersguild.com.

July 8

Forward Brunswick will host its Brunswick Farmers’ Market from 9 to 11 a.m. at Mary Ross Waterfront Park in downtown Brunswick. This curated farmers market features only local foods sold by the farmers who have grown or raised it. The market will be held every month on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. For details, visit forwardbrunswick.org.

July 10

Golden Isles Arts & Humanities will host a number of camps for ages 6 to 14 at the Historic Ritz Theatre this summer. The theme will be “The Play with the Bear in It,” for ages 8 to 12 will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ritz. It will be held July 10 to 14. The instructor will be Heather Heath. The cost is $250. For details call 912-2626934 or email artsed@goldenislesarts.org.

32 GOLDEN ISLES

July 16

The Coastal Georgia Historical Society will host its summer concert program, A Little Light Music, featuring Kenny on the Keys from 7 to 9 p.m. on the lawn of the St. Simons Island lighthouse. Tickets are $15 for adults; children under 12 and Keepers of the Light are admitted free of charge. No cash will be accepted and tickets are non-refundable. Society staff encourages concert-goers to purchase tickets in advance in the Lighthouse Museum Store or on the society’s website, coastalgeorgiahistory.org.

July 24 to 28

Golden Isles Arts & Humanities will host a number of camps for ages 6 to 14 at the Historic Ritz Theatre this summer. The theme will be “The No So Mysterious Disappearance of Cinderella,” for ages 10 to 14 will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ritz. The instructor will be Heather Heath. The cost is $250. For details call 912-262-6934 or email artsed@ goldenislesarts.org.

august

August 2

Golden Isles Olive Oil, 1609 Frederica Road, St. Simons Island, hosts Bingo with music provided by Island Sound. The event is held every Wednesday. To reserve a space, visit goldenislesoliveoil.com.

August 4

First Friday, a monthly downtown block party, will be held from 5:30 to 8 p.m. in and around Newcastle Street in downtown Brunswick. For details, visit discover-brunswick. com.

August 6

The Georgia Coastal Artists’ Guild will host an opening reception for its show from 1 to 3 p.m. at Goodyear Cottage in the Jekyll Island Historic District. More than 20 local artists will showcase their work. It will be on display through the month. For details, visit georgiacoastalartistsguild.com.

August 12

Forward Brunswick will host its Brunswick Farmers’ Market from 9 to 11 a.m. at Mary Ross Waterfront Park in downtown Brunswick. This curated farmers market features fresh foods sold by local farmers. The market will be held every month on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month.

August 17

The Literary Guild of St. Simons will host an Author Talk featuring Tracey Enerson Woods at 10:30 a.m. at the St. Simons Casino, 530 Beachview Dr. She will discuss her book “The President’s Wife.” The event is free for Literary Guild members and $10 for non-members. Reservations are required and may be made at LitGuildSSI.org.

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Facts JUST THE Coastal Habitats

300,000

Our friends at the Georgia Department of Natural Resources were kind enough to share some fun facts and photos that highlight the plants and animals that share these beautiful landscapes. Read on to learn more:

$11 million

Shrimping remains a staple of coastal Georgia’s culture, with a fleet of commercial shrimping vessels operating up and down the coast. Each year, commercial shrimpers bring in approximately $11 million in dockside value. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Resources Division in Brunswick opens and closes shrimp season to ensure the sustainability of the industry.

Coastal Georgia’s unique ecosystem makes it a perfect stopover for migrating shore birds. These species include dunlin, red knot, semipalmated sandpipers, and American oystercatchers.

450 million

Horseshoe crabs, often called living fossils, have inhabited the planet virtually unchanged for approximately 450 million years.

34 GOLDEN ISLES

Not a true crab, they are more closely related to spiders and scorpions, but cannot bite or sting you. Horseshoe crabs play an important role in the coastal ecosystem by providing eggs which migrating birds use for food. Horseshoe crabs also play an important role in medical research, and their copper-rich blood is used in medical testing.

The Bald and Golden Eagle Conservation Act of 1940 prohibits the taking of bald or golden eagles, and plays an important role in helping this majestic species recover.

In 2022, biologists with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources recorded 73 bald eagle nesting territories on the coast, a typical amount.

368,000

Georgia is home to 368,000 acres of protected salt marsh. Not only do marshes provide essential habitat for all manner of marine life, they also provide crucial storm protection during hurricanes and tropical storms by buffering the mainland from storm surge.

105 miles of sand beaches: From Savannah to St. Marys, Georgia’s coast is home to approximately 105 miles of sand beaches.

14 barrier islands

Some of the most spectacular barrier islands on the East Coast are found in Georgia. Only three of these islands have large scale development on them, leaving the remaining 11 as relatively untouched ecosystems. The largest of the 14, Cumberland, is home to Cumberland National Seashore, part of the U.S. National Park Service system and boasts 9,800 acres of Congressionally-designated wilderness.

105
73
JULY/AUGUST 2023 35

And always, without fail, I am inclined to tote around memories made there like a fresh forget-menot flower that never wilts.

years: Write a novel set in my beloved, tranquil paradise.

When Tink and I married at Sea Island’s Cloister Chapel, while there, we also conducted a two-day writing course. One night at dinner, Tink asked, “Why haven’t you written a novel about St. Simons? It means so much to you.”

For years, he repeated that as soon as we would return to the marshes of Glynn. Then, when well-known beach novelists began to lay down their pens — either through death, setbacks, or retirement — I felt the time was right. Over the course of the last three years, I have spent a total of four weeks at the King and Prince, two weeks as The Lodge, and two weeks at The Grand as guests of the Hodnett family. In those places facing the ocean, I began a novel that wrote itself into a mystery as well as a beach read.

New novel shares St. Simons mystery F

Though I became a bestselling author with my first book, What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should), I have focused almost exclusively on non-fiction storytelling. The one exception, The Town That Came A-Courtin’, based on a real-life adventure while on book tour in Arkansas and it did surprising well. It became a bestseller, a Reader’s Digest condensed book, and a successful television movie.

In the years since that book was published by New York’s Berkley, I have not ventured again into fiction.

But when you love a place the way I adore St. Simons — and now my husband, Tink, joins me in that adoration — you’re bound to hear a captivating whisper in your ear that is akin to a siren from Homer’s Odyssey , hypnotizing one not to forget the soothing ocean, the salty air, or the hanging moss.

For over a year, it sat, half-written, while I worked on other things. Tink, who read the pages as I finished chapters, had become smitten with a hilarious, lovable character nicknamed Chatty. On a frequent basis, Tink would sigh. “Oh, I miss Chatty Colquitt. I wished he’d come back.”

Then, a phone call with Allen Wallace of Mercer University Press in Macon, a publisher I have long admired, led to his discovery of my half-finished manuscript about St. Simons Island. The next day, Marc Jolly, who oversees Mercer’s acquisitions, emailed and asked, “Could we set up a call to talk about this book?”

For years, the island of St. Simons has haunted me in the best of ways. The island and its people stick to my heart intriguingly and beckon constantly for me to return.

And, like a sailor on one of Homer’s ships, I was lured by the island’s beautiful melodies, come-hither glances, and an idea which hung idly in my head for

Within two days, it was sold to Mercer and I was scrambling to finish the book (a mystery, no less, which is complicated because of the pieces that must fit together) in eight weeks. I finished it then fell into bed for three days,

DUE SOUTH
36 GOLDEN ISLES

exhausted. A good exhaustion that comes when I have finished.

St. Simons Island: A Stella Bankwell Mystery will release on August 8, followed by a luncheon hosted by The Cloister on August 9. GJ Ford will hold a separate book signing. A couple of other events are pending confirmation on August 10.

This book was pure joy to write because I waxed on about the island I adore and peppered the book with real islanders and events I love.

Happily, Stella’s sleuthing will not end on St. Simons. She and her friends, including Chatty, a U.S Marshal from Glynco, and a former Governor who lives on Sea Island (and was inspired by Zell Miller, one of Georgia’s most famous politicians who was a cherished mentor) will move among the other islands to solve mysteries in the next book. At this point, it looks like Sapelo Island will win that honor.

A couple of months ago, Tink and I visited Chris Carr, Georgia’s Attorney General, in his office. Chris, a longtime friend, was once Commissioner over the state’s film and television industry and I was curious to know about the beginnings of a program that has brought incredible revenue into the state.

When he learned that each book would feature a different Georgia island, his eyes widened in joyous surprise and exclaimed, what everyone has said, “What a brilliant idea!”

Divinely delivered, I must add. I’m not that smart on my own.

I hope to see you all at one or more of the events. It will be meaningful to share this love letter to St. Simons with those who understand my affection.

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Why Wander?

SWhen my dad died three and a half years ago, I turned to nature. This is how I grieved and felt connected to him. From kayak camping in remote, undisclosed places, hiking 40 miles on Cumberland, biking around the north end of Sapelo, traversing the Okefenokee swamp, floating down the Altamaha and Satilla rivers, walking barefoot on the beach, I’ve found ways to ground myself and experience gratitude in this low country coastal environment that I used to take for granted.

hundred years ago, you’d have to earn the distances you traveled. That was when there were mainly trackless wild lands to traverse.

What challenges would I face? Warfare, disease, drought, famine?

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be a native man on the Georgia coast.

Would I walk barefoot in the maritime forest finding creative ways to avoid insects? Would I canoe from my community to harvest oysters, mollusks, crabs, or fish from the creeks and rivers? Would I hunt white-tailed deer and plant the land with crops hoping for a bountiful harvest? Would I feel a sense of intimate connection to the land, water, animals, plants, and community around me?

Would I feel a sense of wholeness in everyday life?

Perhaps I’ve developed a romantic notion of a simpler life. One that is characterized by the slow grind – the slowness of going from place to place, mile by mile, and soaking in the raw natural world right before me. Of course, I will never truly know all the accumulated wisdom from thousands of years of passed down knowledge and tradition. Yet, I have a deep longing to connect to where I live. Three

Today, we are becoming increasingly disconnected from the natural world around us, and there are many negative consequences associated with this. In the everyday, I feel separated from the physical places around me to varying degrees of separation. Four walled offices. Car windows rolled up. Air conditioning. Bananas from the Caribbean. Internet connection has replaced much of real life, intimate communal connection.

Sometimes it’s a good thing to disconnect and tap into our human roots.

The Power of Nature

When I’m out in nature for a long time, my mind operates in a different way. Long hikes, bike rides, and sea kayaking is like a massage for the nervous

NATURE CONNECTION
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY SAM GHIOTO
38 GOLDEN ISLES

system. In the midst of a long distance journey, all problems I thought I had seemingly disappear. On Sapelo Island the weekend of my dad’s birthday in March, my buddy Sergi and I continued my tradition of getting out in nature to celebrate my dad. We set out on another maritime forest adventure on the Georgia coast — this time on bikes. We explored the unpaved roads leading to the north end of Sapelo. We pondered the unique cultural history characterized by the cascading of world-colliding events when the Spanish first made contact with the Natives on the Georgia coast.

Not too far from the very north tip of the island, there is a Native American shell ring composed of shell middens several feet tall. The diameter of the ring is likely a few dozen yards across. The middens are so old, perhaps dating back hundreds if not thousands of years, that massive live oaks are growing out of them. Barnacles, mollusks, crab shells — these are the last remains of the natives today.

What were these rings? What do we know about them? Our knowledge is certainly limited.

Something draws me to these native peoples. Perhaps it’s the mystery of how they lived. In many places, they were usurped by disease, warfare and conquest, and annihilation or banishment. Now, no natives live on the Georgia coast, and I stood on top of the shell ring bordering the marsh where oak and cedar grew, looking toward the center of the densely forested ring.

What vital knowledge about this world has been lost?

As we biked further North, eventually we stopped at High Point and stood on an oyster rake — an accumulation of oyster shells. We could see Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, Barbour, Wahoo, St. Catherines and Blackbeard Island. We turned back onto the road south toward Duck Pond under a densely green live oak canopy. Sergi exclaimed, “Look” as he pointed toward the tree tops, “red-tailed hawk!”

By the end of the weekend on the way back to civilization, a wave of wholeness and gratitude had already set in. I felt connected to the world and remembered again why I go on adventures in remote places.

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Love of Color — An Artist’s Viewpoint

Working as a full-time artist for almost seven years now, I have found a new love of color. Whites, creams, and grays are a trendy choice that many designers use as interior wall color and this neutral backdrop is a perfect place to display colorful art. I am an artist with a flair for design. I consult with clients and guide them in making good design and color choices when choosing an original piece of art that will complete their design.

Color can be intimidating. No one

wants to invest in art that will not compliment their home. Color is always one of my clients’ biggest concerns, especially when commissioning an original piece of art. Helping my clients discover their love for a certain color scheme is a huge part of my work. Color sets the mood, creates drama, evokes emotion, and adds visual interest to a piece of art that is pleasing to the eye. For example, my youngest daughter’s favorite color is yellow. She tells me that shades of yellow make her happy. This love of yellow has not changed for her through the years. So when decorating her childhood bedroom, college dorm room, and first apartment, shades of yellow have always been a must. I have always painted pieces of art for my daughters and helped them make good design choices as they acquire art and furnishings as adults. Having a favorite color or a color scheme for the design is always the first factor when creating a beautiful space.

Color can also be calming. Many spas are a light shade of green because of its soothing effects. Living on the coast and looking out over the marsh and all the many shades of muted greens is often described as serene and tranquil. I have painted many marsh scenes for clients. Marsh paintings as most landscapes are very colorful and are a wonderful addition to any home. Color choices are personal and color influences our emotions so color choices are very important for our emotional well being. When choosing art for one’s home, you want to always make sure that the colors in the piece of art brings you joy and peace. This will ensure longevity for your investment. Original, timeless art is essential to good design.

As an artist and designer, I love many aspects and mediums of art. I am very fond of painted furniture, having painted many pieces myself. One of my passions is turning outdated furniture

W
40 GOLDEN ISLES

into a beautiful statement piece. I then incorporate a unique piece of art that will hang in harmony above the newly redesigned piece of furniture. Painted furniture has gained popularity over the last decade, especially on the coast.

Painted furniture is another excellent way to add color to your home. Imagine a white shiplap wall entryway anchored by a robin’s egg blue bachelor’s chest with an original piece of art that embodies the same blue as the chest. The art is flanked by a pair of soft sea foam green lamps, another color that is incorporated in the wisely chosen piece of art. This simple arrangement has now set the stage for the rest of your home. This crisp coastal vibe is a welcoming and refreshing trend that will leave a lasting impression. Painting furniture is the best way to up-cycle the dark, dated furniture that our parents or grandparents have given us. Before you replace a dated piece of furniture with new furniture, find an artist or someone that restores furniture and see if you can repurpose your treasured furniture. Choosing a professional, the right paint, and the perfect color will save you time and money.

Another exciting part of being an artist is teaching. I am very fortunate to have an in-home studio, and enough room for small classes. Art is my passion and I enjoy teaching others to explore the artist within themselves. I actually learn more from my students as we paint together. A large part of being a good teacher is always learning from other artists. Taking art classes in my free time is such fun for me too. Growing as an artist is something I want to continue to do. I have had the privilege to study under some magnificent artists and have built many lasting friendships in the artistic community.

• Dina Deason is a professional artist with paintings featured locally at Art Trends Gallery. To find out more about Dina and her original art, visit deasonart.com. Follow Deason Art on Facebook and Instagram.

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Dentistry: Healthcare that Works for All Ages

PROVIDED CONTENT

GSimple economics

healthy food, high in fiber and protein.

X-ray vision

Good oral health allows us to enjoy many of the things about being human- the ability to smile, laugh, taste, smell, and eat- but research shows that your dental health is a top indicator of your overall well-being. Your mouth is the entrance point to both your respiratory system and digestive tract, providing a direct path for bacteria to enter and disperse throughout the body. Scientists have discovered links between periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, artificial joint infections, and pregnancy complications, just to name a few.

It is more economical to visit one of our offices regularly than to wait for problems to arise, as the cost of losing teeth has far reaching ramifications, such as the inability to eat properly, a self-conscious smile, and systemic health issues. Professional teeth cleanings are the only way to remove tartar (the hard buildup of bacteria), which leads to periodontal disease and ultimately tooth loss. In our offices, education is important. We discuss nutrition, acidity in foods and beverages, the common problem of dehydration in patients, and what a moderate level of sugar looks like.

If you do have to replace one or multiple teeth, implant dentistry is the way to go. While dentures and partials are the old fashioned way to manage missing teeth, implants are a permanent solution and the only way to restore the proper function of teeth to help you enjoy the taste and feel of eating

Many patients avoid X-rays, but we cannot see most of the tooth with the naked eye. X-rays let us see the root, bone, and interior of a tooth, as well as teeth that have not erupted. We see tiny cracks and catch issues before they become more problematic and therefore more costly. In short, X-rays are a minimal charge and save money in the long run. Caught early, a small filling is much more economical than a root canal. And the development of digital X-rays has nearly eliminated radiation.

A word on saliva

Digestion actually begins in the mouth. Saliva is the mainstay of breaking down sugar, carbohydrates, and fat in food so that your body can absorb them more easily. The loss of saliva through dehydration, pharmaceuticals, and high doses of caffeine can

LIVING WELL
42 GOLDEN ISLES

fuel systemic health problems. Remember to drink water throughout each day and be aware of the dehydration effect of prescription medications.

Anxiety is real

In our offices we understand fear and anxiety and make it part of our initial conversation. Sometimes the hardest step to overcoming dental anxiety is the phone call. We want to put people in a position of comfort from their first interaction with our team. This opens people’s minds to a lifetime of dentistry — whether you start at 5, 20, 40, or 70. Preventive care never stops and our team is deeply committed to oral healthcare from start to finish — we believe it is the window to your overall health. Let us change the way you feel about the dentist.

Access to care

A major problem facing the children and adults of Georgia is the lack of access to dental healthcare. We have many counties in our state without a dentist, and many counties with only one office. My group continues to expand to serve these areas and increase our footprint of care in communities where oral health educated is needed so patients throughout our state can keep their teeth for a lifetime.

• Dr. Zach Powell served as the 2022 President of the Georgia Dental Association, representing over 4,000 dentists. He was recently appointed to the faculty at the Dental College of Georgia, and has traveled extensively speaking and lecturing throughout the state. He has treated tens of thousands of patients over the past 25 years and practices at Dentistry in Redfern on St. Simons Island. Additionally, Dr. Powell is the CEO of a dental group whose outstanding dentists and professionals carry out his vision of patient care all around the state of Georgia. Preventive education, senior dental care, access to oral healthcare for children, and rural healthcare initiatives are near and dear to his heart.

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What goes into a retirement ‘paycheck’?

PROVIDED

Dcircumstances. Typically, the higher your income before you retire, the lower the percentage will be replaced by Social Security. Private pensions have become much rarer in recent decades, though you might receive one if you worked for a government agency or a large company. But in any case, to fill out your retirement paycheck, you may need to draw heavily on your investment portfolio.

ownership is a great way to help build wealth. But once you’re retired, you may need to start accepting the dividends to boost your cash flow.

During your working years, you generally know how much money you’re bringing in, so you can budget accordingly. But once you’re retired, it’s a different story. However, with some diligence, you can put together a “paycheck” that can help you meet your income needs. Where will this paycheck come from? Social Security benefits should replace about 40% of one’s pre-retirement earnings, according to the Social Security Administration, but this figure varies widely based on an individual’s

Your portfolio can provide you with income in these ways:

• Dividends — When you were working, and you didn’t have to depend on your portfolio for income to the extent you will when you’re retired, you may have reinvested the dividends you received from stocks and stock-based mutual funds, increasing the number of shares you own in these investments. And that was a good move, because increased share

• Interest payments — The interest payments from bonds and other fixed-income investments, such as certificates of deposit (CDs), can also add to your retirement income. In the years immediately preceding their retirement, some investors increase the presence of these interest-paying investments in their portfolio. (But even during retirement, you’ll need some growth potential in your investments to help keep you ahead of inflation.)

• Proceeds from selling investments —

While you will likely need to begin selling investments once you’re retired, you’ll need to be careful not to liquidate your portfolio too quickly. How much can you sell each year? The answer depends

MONEY TALKS
CONTENT
44 GOLDEN ISLES

on several factors — your age, the size of your portfolio, the amount of income you receive from other sources, your spouse’s income, your retirement lifestyle, and so on. A financial professional can help you determine the amount and type of investment sales that are appropriate for your needs while considering the needs of your portfolio over your lifetime.

When tapping into your investments as part of your retirement paycheck, you’ll also want to pay special attention to the amount of cash in your portfolio. It’s a good idea to have enough cash available to cover a year’s worth of your living expenses, even after accounting for other sources of income, such as Social Security or pensions. In addition, you may want to set aside sufficient cash for emergencies. Not only will these cash cushions help you with the cost of living and unexpected costs, but they might also enable you to avoid digging deeper into your long-term investments than you might like.

You may be retired for a long time — so take the steps necessary to build a consistent retirement paycheck.

• This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor. Edward Jones, Member SIPC

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Surfing the Golden Isles

is thriving, and thanks to the presence of Jason Latham, the community is growing stronger.

IBorn in American Samoa and moving to Brantley County as a baby to be closer to family, Latham would travel on the weekends to Fernandina Beach to be in the sand and surf as much as possible.

“As soon as I went down and tried it, I remember hitting my first wave that I was able to turn around and go catch. I stood up for my first try and I was instantly hooked on surfing,” Latham says. “That feeling of riding to the beach and being pushed by the ocean, that’s when I was hooked, ever since that day, 27 years ago, I never tried to surf until then but I was in the ocean so much before that.”

Latham played the typical high school sports and was good at them, but realized he loved nothing more than surfing.

“Surfing was the thing that if I could do it every single day, I would,” Latham said. “My only chances to surf were on the weekends and I did it as much as I could.”

Now able to surf every day as a standUp paddle boarder, Latham spoke on why the Golden Isles is a good place to pick up surfing.

“The first thing I would say is surfing here is actually great for learning,” Latham said. “Learning to surf here is perfect. The waves allow a soft, mellow rolling wave where it doesn’t break too terribly hard. In Florida, the beach breaks can be tough to learn on as a beginner, but once you get more experience, then you’ll love them.”

With East Beach and Massengale Beach the two popular public beaches, Latham said the main surfing spot is Gould’s Inlet.

In the Golden Isles, the number one activity is golf. But the surfing community

Being Polynesian and hearing stories of how surfing was in his blood, history, and culture, Latham remembered his earliest moments in the waves on his boogie board. Eventually, he took to surfing at 12 years old and has never looked back.

Breaking down how special the spot is and how it creates the best waves possible in the area, Latham spoke of the sandbars building on the outside of the water where the creek meets the ocean to form the inlet.

“It actually pushes sand during the outgoing and incoming tides and moves sand around and it fluctuates constantly to build up a bank to where the waves can break,” Latham says.

GAME CHANGERS
46 GOLDEN ISLES

“Waves will break in the water, as long as the bottom isn’t too deep. It has to be shallow enough to where the wave can break and a lot of times you have to find those sandbars that stick out and are high enough for waves to break. It’s all about the bottom and think the inlet really creates the bottom.”

The surfing community continues to grow with over 20-30 people out surfing on any given summer day. And Latham relishes sharing his knowledge with those embracing the sport.

“I feel like really the best thing you can do is take a lesson,” Latham says. “I’m not saying that because I want people’s business, I say that because you are going to learn and have a shortcut of what to look at and have it be successful surfing here. If you go out blindly, you are not going to understand when to go, the tides, and the little things that make the biggest difference. To a surfer that knows those things, that’s the beauty of it. You put in all this homework and you understand what it takes to surf here and when to go.”

Latham went on to say that becoming a good surfer requires spending time to check on weather reports and the conditions of not only the area around you, but what the tides will look like before heading out to sea.

“A good surfer is not just good in the water, they are also good at knowing what creates waves and what places are going to make the best waves,” Latham says. “If you understand how to read swell directions, tides, and wind directions (wind is big in surfing), If you get a grasp on all these things, then you are going to be a successful surfer in this area.”

•Jason Latham travels the world to join surfing competitions including a recent trip to El Salvador for the Olympic qualifier. He has his eyes on the 2024 games in Paris. To follow his journey, check out his Instagram account @ jlay_stoked. To learn more about surfing or lessons, contact Latham at 912-614-8142 or reach him through his website Jlaysup912.com.

JULY/AUGUST 2023 47 (912) 580-9134 | Raelaneinteriors | @ raelaneinteriors a design so unique, it was created for you raelaneinteriors@gmail.com GOLDEN ISLES DENTAL ASSOCIATES 25 Coral Park Way, Brunswick GA | 912.265.0750 www.goldenislesdental.com in the Golden Isles for 30 years

St. Simons Seafood

Certainly, a noticeable trend is fewer people staying in hotels and eating out. She gets plenty of customers now who want to buy a big to-go order from her — St. Simons Seafood does not have a dine-in option — to take back to their Airbnb rental.

And when you’re vacationing on the coast, what are you going to eat but seafood? That’s especially true when it comes to shrimp, Georgia’s aquatic cash crop. No matter the season, shrimp has always been the big seller by a mile, both cooked and uncooked.

She’s no stranger to it. Originally from Galveston, Texas, she’s quite familiar with seafood. What Georgia’s got is much better, though.

There’s a reason for that — Georgia is known nationally for its wild-caught shrimp, not farm-raised. “Wild Georgia Shrimp” is a recognized branding slogan across the country due in no small part to a concerted effort with fishers, retailers, restaurants, the Georgia Shrimp Association, and the state government to bring attention to the state’s No. 1 seafood delicacy.

The GSA certifies producers as selling the genuine article, which possesses a taste and texture unlike any others, largely because of the state’s geographical features — particularly the marshland — and the strong Atlantic tides.

Nearly 80% of Georgia’s seafood revenue comes from shrimp alone, in the estimation of the state Department of Agriculture.

In 2022, Georgia had 214 licensed shrimping vessels by the time shrimp season closed in December, per the state Department of Natural Resources. They collectively reported 1.75 million pounds of shrimp caught from St. Marys to Savannah, bringing in a total dockside sale value of $10.5 million by the time the season closed, an 11.3% increase over the five-year average

It’s from that 1.75 million pounds that Egeland gets her product, fresh off the Brunswick and Darien waterfronts, from her brother-in-law who runs a shrimping boat.

A “slow day” in food service is a relative term. It’s different for a drive-thru or pickup place than for a sit-down establishment. At St. Simons Seafood, which sells both prepared meals and raw seafood at retail, it’s a term that doesn’t really apply during the summer.

St. Simons Island doesn’t have an offseason anymore, it’s said by some in the tourism industry, but there’s a distinct difference in those coming to St. Simons Seafood in the summer compared to other seasons, says BJ Egeland, the business’s owner.

“Sometimes we go through 100 pounds, and that’s just cooked, I’m not talking about the shell,” she says. That’s not an isolated occurrence. Ask any restaurant owner, general manager, or head chef about the best-selling food any time of year, and it’s going to be shrimp by a long shot.

Shrimp season is well underway in Georgia by now, typically starting around the end of March, but it was just rounding the corner when Egeland spoke to Golden Isles Mag for an interview about her niche in the area’s bustling food business.

“They’re supposed to be greenish looking,” she explained, holding up a fresh-caught shrimp by way of example. “If they’re orangish, no.”

The darker they are, the longer they’ve been sitting on a boat without ice, she says.

Being from Galveston, Egeland is very familiar with the shrimping industry. On the surface, there’s not much difference between Georgia shrimp and those caught in the Gulf of Mexico. But she feels that Georgia shrimp are much better than anything caught in the Gulf. While growing in popularity, Georgia’s shrimp are still something of a sleeper hit in the culinary world. It’s

A THE DISH
48 GOLDEN ISLES

never been much a of secret to her or her husband though.

The spot off Demere Road opened in 1997, an extension of the business her husband had started in Brunswick, Altama Seafood. He’d worked at Poor Steven’s — a longtime St. Simons Island staple near the intersection of Frederica and Demere roads — for several years. He decided he wanted to be the one selling to the restaurants, rather than working them. That suited Egeland just fine, although she maintains that selling wholesale is a cutthroat business. She much prefers a retail environment, selling straight to the public, which is exactly what she does now.

St. Simons Seafood isn’t a restaurant, but along with raw shrimp, Egeland sells cooked seafood meals for families both local and vacationing in the area that

want something quick to put on the table for dinner. Those are kind of the people she likes to serve.

“I have the best customers in the world,” she says.

On St. Simons Island, you also get a sense of community not found in a lot of other places, another reason Egeland is happy to remain.

One of those customers brought her a recipe he wanted to try, but he also wanted the master to try her hand at making it. Any readers who want to taste something she offers in his or her own kitchen can try out the old Sea Island recipe her customer asked her to make. He provided the recipe and she does the rest, Egeland says. She didn’t ask any questions, but got a great menu item out of the deal.

• St. Simons Seafood is located at 2463 Demere Road. For questions or to make an order, call 912634-2646.

Sea Island Shrimp Salad

2 cups apple cider vinegar

2 lemons, sliced (squeeze juice from end pieces)

3.75 oz capers, undrained

1 large Vidalia onion or other sweet onion, julienned

1½ pounds cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails on

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: mix together vinegar, lemons, capers, and onion into a bowl. Add shrimp, season to taste. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for several hours, stirring a few times, before serving.

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White-water lilies bask sunlit

Peat conglomerates into prairies

where grasses emerge from seedlings cypress towers the canal where history beckons today from the ancient way nature has a penetrating reach to the rekindling summer flames where sandhill cranes screech

ibis flock in the morning rise alligators bellow & lie

flies swarm in the warm afternoon air barred owls who-who, who-who in the unpolluted star-illuminated nights and cannot forget the swallow-tailed kites times soon may change at a crossroads the Okefenokee lays the landscape is still the stage

50 GOLDEN ISLES

THE Okefenokee Awe-Inspiring

WORDS BY SAM GHIOTO PHOTOS BY BEN GALLAND, SAM GHIOTO + KYLE MORGAN
JULY/AUGUST 2023 51
Photo by Sam Ghioto
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The Okefenokee swamp is a vast wetland, a depression of elevation fed primarily through precipitation, lying west of an ancient barrier island named Trail Ridge.

The swamp is shallow and made up of peat — remnants of decomposed plant and animal matter that rise to the surface through “peat blow-ups,” which clump together providing a foundation for certain plants to seed and root. Eventually, the peat hardens, becoming somewhat of a firm surface as plants take root and grow over time.

The term Okefenokee is a rough translation from Muskogee origins meaning, “Land of the Trembling Earth.” The phrase describes what it’s like to walk across the swamp, trembling ground, wet underfoot.

The densely organic matter comprising peat is the basis of a carbon sink where the gaseous element is stored in perpetuity. Ninety-five million tons of carbon is thought to be stored in the Okefenokee. It is widely recognized that this hydrologically intact blackwater swamp is important not just for South Georgia, but for the world.

Swamp Signifi cance

In 1937, the Okefenokee became a National Wildlife Refuge — a sanctuary for all kinds of creatures — over 1,000 species of plants and animals, in fact. When I visited the visitor’s center at the Suwannee Canal Recreation Area in Folkston earlier this year, I met a National Wildlife Service employee who explained that the Okefenokee is the third largest and most intact blackwater swamp east of the Mississippi River — even more so than the highly-altered Everglades in Florida.

The swamp is ecologically and historically rich. There are roughly 660 square miles or 438,000 acres of peat prairies and upland forested hammocks supporting a tremendous variety of hundreds of plants and animals species, including rare ones under threat of habitat destruction in recent

T
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decades. The vast majority of the swamp is wilderness — untouched and unnavigable land that nature holds in its firm grip. The place spells unspoiled nature in its present form, perhaps even seemingly of prehistoric code, despite the greedy attempts to forever alter and clear cut the vast place to adhere to humanity’s rabid craving for conquering nature.

When combined with the Osceola National Forest and Pinhook — a set of private and state-owned forests — in Florida, the Dixon Memorial State Forest north of the swamp, and other private timberlands, the Okefenokee is the heart of the largest contiguous conser-

vation corridor east of the Mississippi River comprising over 1 million acres, according to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). Although these areas have been heavily logged and surrounding natural habitats have been fragmented, this part of Southern Georgia and Northern Florida is a glimmering emblem of what a conservation corridor could be — large swaths of land that allow animals to free range and plants to grow unhindered — a rarity in the Southeast of the U.S.

Just as many animals and plants take refuge in the swamp today, 200 years ago the disbanded and decimated natives who experienced the horrors

of the Spanish introduction of smallpox and European warfare found refuge in the dense wetland labyrinths. In  Trembling Earth: A Cultural History of the Okefenokee Swamp, Megan Nelson details how runaway enslaved Africans, who used their knowledge of wetland ecology to escape plantations, and groups of natives came together in and around the Okefenokee to become what’s called the Seminoles.

Recreation in the Swamp

I met Levi Welling, avid naturalist and fisherman and Director of Operations for Okefenokee Adventures. I asked

JULY/AUGUST 2023 55
Photos by Kyle Morgan Photos

Levi about the significance of the swamp, and he responded that it is, “a long-term economic asset to South Georgia.” It’s estimated there are between 250,000 and 300,000 visitors coming to the swamp and recreating each year.

The swamp offers many opportunities for exploration. The Suwanee Canal Recreation Area (SCRA) in Folkston, Okefenokee Swamp Park in Waycross, and Stephen C. Foster State Park near Fargo offer respective guided tours or canoes and motorboats for self-exploration as well. There are 120 miles of water trails, and ten camping spots in the swamp.

In the early afternoon, I tagged along an outgoing guided tour, a great way to learn about the deep history and intricate ecology. We saw swooping pileated woodpeckers, resting red-shouldered hawks, sunbathing American alligators, wading white ibis, but never caught a glimpse of the elusive bittern that typically blends in with the tall grass. There were many songbirds that I couldn’t identify at first glimpse. Then, there was the yellow-throated warbler — too far and too quick for my lens to capture. The lush impenetrable landscape, though, had a grip on my attention. I adjusted my lens to the 24mm wild angle perspective.

I made overnight reservations at Okefenokee Pastimes, which is one of many campsites surrounding the swamp. I stayed at a camping spot named Longleaf. I thought, “how wonderful.” This very type of forest, now revered for its significance to an array of animals including the endangered red cockaded woodpecker and gopher tortoise, has been logged down to 3% of its pre-timber crusade numbers. The SCRA has a road adjacent to the visitor’s center that meanders through a longleaf pine restoration forest which the National Wildlife Service (NWS) has released several groups of red-cockaded woodpeckers. Their nesting cavities have been marked by white paint on the trees.

The Road Ahead — Okefenokee at a Crossroads

Over 130,000 public comments from across the world made their way to Geor-

Photo by Ben Galland
56 GOLDEN ISLES
Photo by Sam Ghioto

gia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD), Army Corps of Engineers, and Governor Kemp’s desk since February this year in an outcry response to the EPD’s acceptance of Twin Pine’s titanium mining proposal. Some scientists provide clear evidence that the mine located three miles east of the swamp on Trail Ridge could lower the swamp water level significantly. This would be problematic in many ways for the future of the swamp.

Darlene Taylor filed a bill titled the Okefenokee Protection Act earlier this year into the Georgia General Assembly. Although the bill would prevent mining on Trail Ridge in order to protect its fragile hydrology, it would not prevent the current mining proposal.

I spoke with Kim Bednarek, the executive director of the Okefenokee Swamp Park in Waycross, who is interested in creating the “Okefenokee Experience.” “Recreation (in the Okefenokee) is

reasonably good, and we want to take it to the next level,” she says.

This means making Folkston, Fargo, and Waycross, the three towns surrounding the swamp, viable places for increased ecotourism. Bednarek is collaborating with a lot of partners from both the private and public sectors to improve the quality of life for these three rural towns. For this to happen, she explains to me that there needs to be bipartisan support and an inclusionary process.

The plans for the Okefenokee Experience include the creation of a dark sky observatory in Fargo. Kim explains, “We are talking about ecotourism, right, but think Astro-tourism.” Stephen C. Foster State Park is designated as a “gold tier International Dark Sky Park.” A Nature Center will be created in Waycross, and a Cultural History Museum would be created in Folkston. The next step is a UNESCO World Heritage designation, which is like a stamp of approval in a

tourism sense and brings global visibility. This would increase tourism dollars significantly, and Kim believes the creation of the Okefenokee Experience will solidify the necessary foundation which will maximize the economic potential spread out around the 400,000 acres of the swamp.

The Okefenokee has been on the tentative list for designation since 1982, and when designated, it will be the only UNESCO National Wildlife Refuge in the United States, which will get some serious press coverage.

Georgia’s natural areas in the past 50 years have undergone significant industrial threats. It’s fascinating to me that Southeast Georgia has made clear moves to protect its natural resources for posterity. This choice has clear economic implications in that recreation and tourism become the forefront of the dollars coming in. The Okefenokee Swamp is next in line.

JULY/AUGUST 2023 57
Photos by Kyle Morgan

The Burning of Darien

“In the end, nothing was left of Darien. Darien, Georgia, is amongst the things that was. Those beautiful mills, houses and stores are no more. All that remains of a once beautiful town is one mass of smoldering ruins one of the effects of civil war.”

58 GOLDEN
ISLES

The burning of Darien was one of the most controversial events of the Civil War. Historian Merton Coulter called the destruction of Darien by federal troops on June 11, 1863, a “barbaric act and one of the best examples of wanton vandalism of the entire war.”

The fullest account, by historian Spencer B. King, is Darien: The Death and Rebirth of a Southern Town . In his book, King labeled Union commander Col. James Montgomery as a “destructive vandal ranking on a scale somewhere between Hitler and Attila the Hun.”

Paradoxically, as significant as this event is to the town’s history, the story of Darien’s burning on that warm day in 1863 is only vaguely familiar even to people who have lived there their whole lives, despite a proliferation of books and articles about the incident.

On June 11, four federal gunboats transporting troops of the 54th Massachusetts and the 2nd South Carolina volunteer regiments departed from their base on occupied St. Simons Island, and attacked Darien. The units were composed of Black troops and White officers, recruited both in the North and the South largely for the purpose of staging raids on civilian targets such as Darien.

The operation was under the overall command of Montgomery. His immediate subordinate was Col. Robert G. Shaw, the 25-year-old commander of the 54th Massachusetts who had recruited and trained his regiment in Boston.

Darien was largely a deserted town when the four Union vessels landed their troops on the waterfront. After naval raids on the nearby plantations the previous year, virtually the entire population of Darien had departed, seeking refuge in other parts of McIntosh County. Also, Darien was undefended. No Confederate troops were nearby, thus making it difficult to establish a rationale for the looting and destruction of Darien.

An argument could be made that the burning was a precursor to the concept of “total war” as it came to be understood. In later wars, human conflict became more than simple confrontations between armies on a battlefield or fleets at sea. Total war entailed destruction against civilian populations and infrastructure, whether such actions affected the course or outcome of a war.

Darien had little strategic importance to merit the attention of either the Confederate or Union war efforts in 1863. The town had lost much of its former significance as a seaport and cotton market after the railroads bypassed Darien in the late 1830s, with inland cotton going to Savannah for export. By 1860, Darien had no economic or military value.

Clues to the rationale behind the destruction lie in the letters of Shaw, both from the official records and to his family. It

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is fortunate that Shaw committed his concerns to paper in the immediate aftermath of the raid, for he was killed in action only a month later while leading the 54th Massachusetts in an unsuccessful attempt to take Battery Wagner near Charleston, an incident vividly depicted in the 1989 movie Glory.

Writing to his wife Annie the day after the burning, Shaw noted, “… About noon we came in sight of Darien, a beautiful little town. Our artillery peppered it a little as we came up, and then our three boats made fast to the wharves, and we landed our troops. The town was deserted, with the exception of two white women and two negroes…after the town was pretty thoroughly disemboweled, Montgomery said to me, ‘I shall burn this town.’ He speaks always in a very low tone and has quite a sweet smile when addressing you. I told him I did not want the responsibility of it, and he was only too happy to take it all on his shoulders. So the pretty little place was burnt to the ground, and not a shed remains standing. Montgomery fired the last buildings with his own hand. One of my companies assisted in it, because he

ordered them out, and I had to obey.”

Shaw continued, “You must bear in mind that not a shot had been fired at us from the place…all the inhabitants had fled on our approach. The reasons he gave me for destroying Darien was that the Southerners must be made to feel that this was a real war and that they were to be swept away by the hand of God, like the Jews of old. In theory it may seem all right to some, but when it comes to being made the instrument of the Lord’s vengeance, I myself don’t like it.” Then he says, ‘We are outlawed, and therefore are not bound by the rules of regular warfare.’ That makes it none the less revolting to wreak our vengeance on the innocent and the defenseless … no good reason can be given for doing such a thing …”

The match that lit the blaze that leveled Darien actually went further back than Montgomery.

E.M. Coulter, noted that General David Hunter, commander of Union forces at Hilton Head from which the 54th and the 2nd South Carolina departed for St. Simons, wrote a letter to Governor

John Andrews of Massachusetts that is revealing. Hunter indicated to Andrews on June 3 that the Darien expedition was “but the initial step of a system of operations which will rapidly compel the Rebels to lay down their arms and sue for restoration to the Union… leaving desolate the most fertile and productive of their counties along the seaboard.” Hunter, in fact, had already ordered similar raids on several South Carolina rice plantations.

However, Hunter apparently had second thoughts about the proposed destruction of Darien, giving Montgomery amended instructions on the eve of departure from Hilton Head. Coulter notes, “Hunter said that even in light of the Confederate government’s attitude toward negro troops, in order to give the Confederates as little excuse as possible for charging atrocities to the United States, Montgomery should use the utmost strictness ‘in avoiding any devastation which does not strike immediately the right of war. Though unquestionable in certain extreme cases, is not to be lightly used … All household furniture, libraries, churches and hospitals you will of course spare.’”

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An illustration of the Union soldiers who burned Darien. Illustration by Hailey MacIssac

Montgomery decided to interpret these revised instructions to conform to his personal views and destroyed Darien anyway, in contradiction of his superior’s orders.

The troops ransacked most of the houses and businesses in town and loaded their vessels with their loot before putting the match to the community. Included were items as disparate as household furniture, books, public records, farm equipment, crockery, cookware, and all manner of other assorted plunder.

Darien was then burned as groups, primarily comprising the 2nd South Carolina, went throughout the town putting the torch to individual structures, including businesses, private homes, public buildings, and churches. The last areas to be set ablaze were the commercial structures and warehouses along the waterfront, some of which were storage facilities for highly-flammable naval stores, such as rosin, pitch, and lumber.

All that survived were the exterior walls of a two-story store on the upper bluff, a portion of the Methodist Church and three other small buildings.

Samuel Boyer, a naval surgeon attached to one of the Union warships blockading nearby Doboy Sound, accompanied the raid. He later wrote: “At 3 p.m., the Army troops, i.e. Colonel Montgomery’s regiment of contrabands, set fire to Darien, and in a short time the whole place was one mass of flame. The sight was beautiful. Whether it was proper and pat to burn the place I know not, but I do know that the place was reduced to ashes…We did not ascend the river all the way to Darien on account of our vessel being too large a craft. Consequently, we have nothing to do with the burning of Darien, being merely spectators… Darien, Georgia is amongst the things that was. Those beautiful mills, houses and stores are no more. All that remains of a once beautiful town is one mass of smoldering ruins — one of the effects of civil war.”

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“In the end, nothing was left of Darien,” wrote another eyewitness. “Darien is nothing but a blackened pile of ashes. The invaders even shot the cattle in the streets and left them there… There is not a living soul in the town.”

History has not been kind to Shaw in the Darien affair. Inexplicably, it was Shaw who was accorded most of the blame for Darien’s destruction, when it was actually Montgomery who planned the raid and ultimately decided to burn Darien. Shaw was only carrying out Montgomery’s orders, under protest as noted earlier, reporting to his superiors his displeasure with Montgomery, and disavowing any responsibility for the destruction.

Shaw came from an aristocratic abolitionist Boston family. After the war, Shaw’s mother, defending the memory of her late son, provided a financial contribution toward the building of the St. Andrews Episcopal Church’s new chapel at the Ridge, which preceded by several years the rebuilding of the destroyed church on Vernon Square. For the remainder of her life, Mrs. Shaw worked to clear the reputation of her son who had protested the burning of Darien precedent to, and following, the events themselves, yet was incorrectly accorded much of the blame by locals for the incident.

As for Darien, the story of how the enterprising little town rose from the ashes and made an economic recovery is a familiar one. Darien rebuilt, its commercial resurgence based on a flourishing timber economy that lasted well into the 20th century.

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A part of a monument to the Massachusetts 54th regiment in Boston.
change,

An oppressive swelter engulfs the late summer marsh.

A fish jumps. Splashes. Grasses rustle.

FLIGHT OFAARON BURR

BY LINDSEY ADKISON

PHOTOS BY PRISCILLA BOUDREAU, SAM GHIOTO, THE COASTAL GEORGIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY, AND THE ST. SIMONS LAND TRUST. COLORIZATION BY JOSH DUKES.

All is calm as a shape forms on the horizon.

A boat glides toward the shoreline, bearing contraband cargo — a wanted man in sweat-drenched linen. He steps up as it approaches a well-manned dock.

THE A

“Your name and business at Hampton Plantation,” the sentry growls.

“Aaron Burr calling on Major Pierce Butler,” the dusty traveler replies curtly.

SOJOURN TO ST. SIMONS

It was 1804 when Burr’s muddy boots stepped onto St. Simons’ marshy shore.

His fateful duel with former treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton in Weehawken, New Jersey, a few weeks prior had saddled him — the sitting Vice President — with two murder charges.

One was filed in New York, where Hamilton succumbed to an abdominal wound 36 hours after Burr fired his pistol on July 11. The second was pursued by New Jersey.

Though sources vary on the legality or illegality of dueling

JULY/AUGUST 2023 63

at this time, Brittanica notes that the practice was in fact illegal in both states, though New Jersey’s penalties were less severe.

Duels, however, were still widely accepted as honorable endeavors by much of society. That’s why the public outrage over Hamilton’s death sincerely stunned Aaron Burr. As the coroner’s jury was convened on July 13, he hurriedly packed his belongings and crept out of New York, heading south. He first traveled to Pennsylvania then to Georgia, where he arrived in mid-August.

In a letter to his daughter, Theodosia, Burr’s sardonic humor was evident when he wrote:

“There is a contention of a singular nature between the two states of New York and New Jersey. The subject in the dispute is, which shall have the honor of hanging the Vice President. You shall have due notice of time and place. Whenever it may be, you may rely on a great concourse of company, much gayety, and many rare sights.”

A network of allies spirited Burr down to Georgia where he first lodged with Major Pierce Butler at Hampton Plantation on the northern end of St. Simons Island. Burr had befriended Butler when the two served as senators. During his time on the plantation, Burr wrote a number of letters to his daughter (under the alias of Roswell King or simply R. King) which he sent via a mail boat that collected the post.

According to his correspondence, Burr easily moved through St. Simons,

64 GOLDEN ISLES Now Accepting New Patients
The ruins of Cannon’s Point Plantation.

noting the people and settlements he found. One letter dated September 3, 1804, described the former Fort Frederica in dismal terms:

“In the vicinity of the town several ruins were pointed out to me, as having been, formerly, country seats of the governor, and officers of the garrison, and gentlemen of the town. At present, nothing can be more gloomy than what was once called Frederica. The few families now remaining, or rather residing there, for they are all new-comers, have a sickly, melancholy appearance, well-assorted with the ruins which surround them. The southern part of this island abounds with fetid swamps, which must render it very unhealthy. On the northern half, I have seen no stagnant water.”

The fugitive whiled away the hours fishing for trout and hunting birds. He also described excursions to nearby Little St. Simons Island, Darien, and at the neighboring plantation of John Couper of Couper’s Point (today Cannon’s Point Nature Preserve, managed by the St. Simons Island Land Trust). It was in this three-storied mansion that Burr rode out the suspected category 4 storm, now referred to as the Antigua-Charleston Hurricane.

THE EYE OF THE HURRICANE

While Burr seemed to be embracing his own version of island time, sipping French wine and scouring the streams for alligators (which he dubbed “crocodiles”) to catch and eat, all was not well. A powerful hurricane was churning in the Atlantic.

On September 7, it made landfall along the Georgia and South Carolina coast, with its eye moving directly over St. Simons Island.

At the time, Burr was visiting Couper, who was ill. As winds picked up and the storm moved inland, Burr decided to wait it out at Couper’s Point.

In a September 12 letter, he recalled:

“In the morning, the wind was still higher. It continued to rise, and by noon blew a gale from the north, which, together with the swelling of the water, became alarming. From twelve to three, several of the out-houses had been destroyed; most of the trees about the house were blown down. The house in which we were shook and rocked so much that Mr. C. began to express his apprehensions for our safety. Before three, part of the piazza was carried away; two or three of the windows bursted in. The house was inundated with water, and presently one of the chimneys fell. Mr. C. then commanded a retreat to a storehouse about fifty yards off, and we decamped, men, women, and children.

You may imagine, in this scene of confusion and dismay, a good many incidents to amuse one if one had dared to be amused in a moment of much anxiety. The house, however, did not blow down. The storm continued till four, and then very suddenly abated, and in ten minutes it was almost a calm. I seized the moment to return home.”

JULY/AUGUST 2023 65
Aaron Burr’s bedroom at the Federal Quarters in St. Marys

But the storm wasn’t finished with Burr yet. It continued through the night and when the next day dawned catastrophic devastation was revealed. Nineteen of Hampton Plantation’s enslaved people had drowned along with 500 other regional residents who lost their lives along with widespread damage to crops and property.

SECRETS FROM ST. MARYS

While Burr’s original plan to venture into Florida was thwarted by the hurricane, he did head south during his stay. He had planned to call at Dungeness on Cumberland Island, which was home to Revolutionary War General Nathanial Greene’s widow and their children.

St. Marys-based author Kay Westberry, who has penned three history books, says that this gesture was not well received.

“When they heard Burr was coming, the family all left and went inland, so it was just the servants left to greet him,” she says. “That was a major snub. But one of the daughters had a teenage crush on Hamilton, so I don’t think she was really excited to see Burr. And he was also a wanted murderer at the time. They didn’t want to be associated with that.”

Another Camden County resident did reportedly welcome the disgraced politician. Major Archibald Clark was a prominent local attorney who attended the same law school as Burr, though over a decade apart.

The home that Burr purportedly stayed in — 314 Osborne Street in St. Marys — is still standing. For decades it remained within the same family, who held that the vice president was a guest there. This was recognized by the National Trust for Historic

66 GOLDEN ISLES

Preservation and a plaque affixed to the building in 1936.

Now dubbed the Federal Quarters, it is open to lodgers who can lay their heads in the same room that Burr once occupied.

Originally constructed in 1801, the property now belongs to Keegan and Rebecca Federal (an uncanny coincidence considering that Burr’s nemesis Alexander Hamilton belonged to the Federalist Party). Today, Keegan is carrying on a tradition begun by Clark — he operates his law office on the first floor.

“(Clark) was a lawyer and he was also appointed by the president at the time, Thomas Jefferson, to become the customs’ agent or what we call the tax collector for all the ships that would come in here,” Federal says, standing on the home’s porch.

There are a number of original elements still visible in the house today, including the heart pine floors and an alarmingly steep staircase once used by servants (there’s a modern version available to guests). The rooms are also furnished with antiques and items reminiscent of the period.

Federal moves through the home, outlining historical details and appointments for guests, but stops to point out an entirely unrelated item — a secret room tucked away.

“The kids love this,” Keegan says with a grin, unlatching the door. “It’s a little Harry Potter room, we have a lot of the Harry Potter stuff in here.”

But the historical gold is upstairs. Stepping into one bedroom, Federal pauses.

“This is it ... the Aaron Burr room. This is where he stayed,” he says, opening his arms.

The room is spacious with a large

bed and patriotic appointments. And it’s easy to imagine the embattled Founding Father laboring over letters at a writing desk there. For Federal, the link between past and present can often feel a bit blurred as one walks through the home.

“A lot of our guests want to stay here because of Aaron Burr. We get a lot of interest in that. They mostly come from Atlanta or from North Carolina,” he says. “But we also have another link to history, General Winfield Scott later stayed here en route home from the Indian Wars in Florida. So this other bedroom is called the Winford Scott Suite. And the last bedroom ... we call the Alexander Hamilton Suite. He never stayed here, of course, but we thought it had a nice ring to it.”

COMPLEXITY AND CONCLUSION

The vice president returned to Washington, D.C., to finish his tenure, even presiding over the Senate during the impeachment trial of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase in 1805.

Burr’s murder charges were still pending at this time and the bizarre scenario was detailed by a Boston newspaper under the headline “The World Upside Down.”

The paper observed, “Formerly, it was the practice in courts of justice to arraign the murderer before the judge, but now we behold the judge arraigned before the murderer.”

Thanks to Burr’s influential friends in Congress, the murder charges were not prosecuted (the prosecutor filed a nolle prosequi), though he was convicted of a misdemeanor dueling charge in New York. That meant Burr could not vote, practice law, or hold public office for 20 years.

JULY/AUGUST 2023 67
Drawing of Cannon’s Point Plantation

Of course, that was not the end of Burr’s story, far from it in fact. His complicated legacy continued when he faced treason charges surrounding an alleged plot to convince newly acquired western territories to secede from the union. Some say Burr had planned to work with England to install himself as an independent ruler there.

In 1806, Burr was apprehended in present-day Alabama and sent under guard to Richmond, Virginia.

Though President Thomas Jefferson pushed for a conviction, Burr was acquitted due to a lack of evidence, confounding the hangman yet again.

The trial coupled with the Hamilton affair left Burr’s life and reputation in tatters. He spent several years in Europe, trying to entice British and French governments into creating a new nation in the American Southwest (which he’d undoubtedly lead). It, of course, did not work. Burr returned to America in 1812. In December of that year, his beloved daughter, Theodosia, disappeared in a presumed shipwreck aboard The Patriot.

Burr spent his final years practicing law. He died on September 14, 1836, at the age of 80.

Even today, 187 years later, the infamous Aaron Burr still looms large on the American landscape. And his footsteps are still visible on the Coast, adding another fascinating and unique thread to the fabric of the Golden Isles.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

“The Burr-Hamilton Duel,” The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and the New Media at George Mason University, teachinghistory.org, 2018.

Davis, Matthew L., The Memoirs of Aaron Burr: Complete Edition, Including Volumes I and II , Harper Brothers, New York, 2020.

Cleland, Thomas, “A Refugee in South Georgia, Aaron Burr,” The Brantley County Historical Society, sites.rootsweb.com.

Issenberg, Nancy, Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr . United Kingdom, Viking, 2007.

Roper, Daniel M., “Old Jails — The Treason of Aaron Burr,” Georgia Backroads, Summer 2022, pages 6-10.

Shafer, Ronald, “The Impeachment Trial Presided Over By Alexander Hamilton’s Killer,” The Washington Post, Feb. 13, 2021.

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OCEARCH crew becomes beloved Brunswickians

Name a location along the East Coast and you can bet the Ocearch crew has been there. From tip of Florida to Nova Scotia, the M/V Ocearch has been on a mission since 2007 to tag and track great white, tiger, and other large shark species in the Western North Atlantic Ocean for scientific research, collecting previously unattainable data that has contributed to more than 75 published research papers over the past 16 years.

There have been 45 expeditions on the 126-foot vessel formerly used for king crab fishing in the Bering Sea, most recently to waters around the Outer Banks for 17 days. On board were scientists using the vessel for its unparalleled access to the ocean’s giants. They were there to study and learn about things like antibiotic-producing bacteria associated with sharks, to assess the health of Atlantic shark populations, to assess metal contaminants, and oxidative stress in large sharks, to measure the physiological effects of ... you get the point.

BY MICHAEL HALL PHOTOS BY MICHAEL HALL, CHRIS ROSS, AND RICK SNOW
70 GOLDEN ISLES
Photo By Chris Ross

Providing those PhD-types access to the sharks are the people who make the boat go. People like Chris Fischer, Ocearch’s founder, Brett McBride, the boat’s captain, and three guys who, despite having been in just about every port town you can name along the East Coast, like Brunswick the best. That is why they now call it home.

But that was never the plan in the first place. Ocearch came to Brunswick by happenstance, not by design. Dave Stevenson, who is now the ship’s manager, and D.J. Lettieri, a leaderman and deck hand, had been with the rest of the crew in Brooklyn in New York City doing some outreach work after an expedition in Cape Cod. It was November 2016 and time to head south for a winter break. Thunderbolt, just outside of Savannah, was their intended destination, but Hurricane Matthew had different ideas.

“Matthew hit Thunderbolt pretty hard,” Lettieri says. “So a guy named Charles McMillan (of the Georgia Conservancy) who had set us up in Thunderbolt found us somewhere else. As soon as we got cell service again, we got a call from him and he says ‘Hey, look, you’re not going to Savannah. But I know this great little town called Brunswick. They have dock space for you and they’d love to have you.’”

On Nov. 21, 2016, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, Stevenson, who at that point had been hired only to make some repairs to the boat and to get it South from Brooklyn, and Lettieri, along with a few other crew members who are no longer with Ocearch, tied up to the City Docks in downtown Brunswick. They were met by McMillan and two downtown Brunswick residents — Ashby Worley and Angie Young.

“We tied the lines and they were standing there to say, ‘Welcome to Brunswick,’” Littieri says.

About that time they also met Susan Bates, owner of Tipsy McSway’s Bar and Grill, who told them come by later when the restaurant opened.

Being the salty sailors they are, Stevenson, Littieri, and the rest of the crew at the time took Bates up on her offer and went to work washing down the salty air of the sea with a few drinks. That day laid the groundwork for friendships they still maintain today, and for them eventually choosing to call Brunswick home.

“Brunswick had a great hometown, community feel,” Stevenson says. “I enjoyed it pretty much from day one. But it was really the sense of community we saw immediately.”

The city had everything they needed. The dock had water and power which meant they didn’t have to run generators non-stop while living on the boat and working on its maintenance every day during their break. It also had warm and inviting people who added to the character of the place. That endeared Stevenson and Littieri immediately. Both are from smaller towns, Stevenson in Colorado and Littieri in Virginia.

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“The commun y and the friendships have made this home, I’ve been to almost every port town, on both sides of the country, and this is my favor e. This is home.” Dave Stevenson
Photo By Michael Hall Photo By Rick Snow Photo By Chris Ross Photo By Chris Ross Photo By Chris Ross
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Photo By Chris Ross

Within the first week of being in town, the crew was invited to Young’s house for Thanksgiving.

“That day we got introduced to what felt like the entire town,” Littieri says. “Angie (Young) said, ‘I want people to love my town.’”

Young and others would help them make trips to Home Depot or other stores for supplies they needed to maintain the boat. People they met along the way became true friends and before long, some of those relationships became deeper.

“When they asked us where we wanted to dock the next year, we says, ‘Brunswick,’ for sure,” Littieri says.

Purcell arrived as an intern in 2019, having no idea what to expect.

“I just got an address from Dave (Stevenson) and plugged it into my phone and came down,” Purcell says.

When he arrived, the boat was empty. Stevenson and Littieri were hanging out with friends and going bowling on a Sunday afternoon.

“That wouldn’t happen in somewhere like Boston,” Purcell says. “Being able to tie up in Brunswick is a lot more comfortable.”

He quickly learned what Littieri and Stevenson had already, that Brunswick was a great place to be.

By that time, Littieri and Stevenson both had girlfriends. Stevenson had bought more than 20 acres and a cabin in Western Glynn County where he keeps goats, guinea hens, and a couple of dogs. Littieri would soon do the same, opting instead for a home in downtown Brunswick where he lives with his girlfriend and two dogs.

Purcell, who still lives on the boat, has a girlfriend in town as well and has built new and lasting friendships.

“Plus, we have the best sunset in town right off the bow of the boat,” Purcell says, referring the view to the West of the vessel over the marshes when docked at the City Docks.

A dock is under construction in Jacksonville that will eventually mean the Ocearch boat will move to a new location when it’s not out catching 15- and 16-foot sharks. Littieri, Stevenson, and Purcell will still be catching those sharks and helping the scientists gather their data, but Brunswick will remain home.

They are gone for as many as 85 days sometimes. Sure, they will stop in at other ports along the way for a night or two, but none of those stops has the same community of friends as Brunswick, Stevenson says.

“The community and the friendships have made this home,” he says. “I’ve been to almost every port town, on both sides of the country, and this is my favorite. This is home.”

• To learn more about OCEARCH’s work or to follow the sharks they are tracking, visit ocearch.org/tracker.

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Flower Power:

THE FLEETING BEAUTY OF THE MARSH MALLOW HIBISCUS

You won’t see a prettier flower around these parts than Hibiscus grandiflorus, blossoming as it does in a colorful profusion of vibrant aqua hues and sublime pastels.

y

But the truth is, most of you probably won’t ever even see the bounteous marsh mallow hibiscus, at least not in all its natural glory.

Unlike its cultivated cousins in the hibiscus family, this wildflower does not exist to placate human aesthetics. There, in its natural environment, it seems we do not even matter.

This uncultured beauty thrives solely in the soggy recesses of unique freshwater wetlands that are found only on sparsely populated Georgia sea islands and those on the coastal fringes of South Carolina and northern Florida. And even there, its annual cycle of bloom is fleeting, corresponding succinctly with the sweltering and most inhospitable spot on our calendar. Plus, Hibiscus

grandiflorus is a nocturnal bloomer, wilting away beneath the rising sun of each new day.

But the flower’s perennial reign has unfurled without interruption here for at least 3,500 years, an event much heralded by birds and bees and other pollinators. The hibiscus family tree itself predates homo sapiens by many millions of years.

Sadly, several indicators point to Hibiscus grandiflorus’ crucial habitat withering as the 21st century hits its stride. And guess who is to blame?

“It is a unique species, Hibiscus grandiflorus,” says Emily Engle, a trained naturalist and staff member at The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island, a local hidden gem of an eco-resort. “This particular species is unique and endemic to coastal wetland habitats. Unfortunately, we have seen massive declines in those habitats, particularly because of climate change and development on

the coastal Georgia barrier islands. As we have seen the decline in wetlands, we see this species in decline.”

One place the marsh mallow hibiscus still thrives in its antediluvian splendor is on Little St. Simons Island. Tucked into a spongy flat plain between the island’s prehistoric dunes presides what is believed to be the most extensive remaining spread of this reclusive damsel.

“This is probably one of the larger stands that we have in Georgia or anywhere else,” Engle says. “Not to say this is the only stand, but we have not seen areas of marsh mallow hibiscus like these on other barrier islands.”

Golden Isles Magazine was privileged to be invited last summer on a guided safari to Hibiscus grandiflorus’ home in the heart of Little St. Simons Island, a wild barrier island along the Atlantic Ocean and just across the Hampton River from St. Simons Island. With Emily leading the way, a handful of media types stepped

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lightly through a tangle of maritime forest to enter what might one day be Hibiscus grandiflorus’ last stand.

On this day in the thick of July, however, the marsh mallow hibiscus stood tall and glorious. Getting there was another matter.

The singular and fragile ecosystem in which this wildflower thrives is remote even by the standards of Little St. Simons Island, where some 11,000 untamed acres of coastal Georgia habitat still holds dominion. For a number of reasons, even the island’s ecotourist guests rarely ever get a peek at Hibiscus grandiflorus.

Our party set out shortly after first light, donning long sleeves, long pants, and slathered in bug spray on a hot and steamy July morning. It proved little more than a futile attempt to hold off a swarming tempest of mosquitoes.

Our pickup truck stopped beneath a canopy of moss-draped oaks alongside a pair of nondescript dirt tracks on a rugged path that runs through the center of the island.

“This is where the off-road adventure begins,” Engle says with an eager grin.

Piling out of the truck bed, we ascended a winding terrain riddled with vines and protruding roots up a ridge draped in oak, pine, magnolia, and palmetto scrub. Trees felled by time and weather rotted where they lay atop thick carpets of composting leaves and pine needles, a testament to the absence of a human imprint here. And, yes, this is prime territory estate for snakes and gators — critters that are all too happy to leave you alone if only you will reciprocate.

As we descended the other side of the wooded ridge, sunlight beamed from a clearing below us. The terrain flattened out at the bottom and we stepped into a surreal setting. Robust flowers in varying shades of pinks and purples and blues and creamy whites popped in multitude, like giant puffs of confetti. Several dozen flowers clung to each plant’s sturdy stalk, some of which climbed to 8 feet or more.

As Emily had noted, the marsh mallow hibiscus is a megafauna. Its prodigious blooms trumpeted a festive tone that quietly reverberated through the pristine stillness of the primordial surroundings. This colorful tableau held forth across several acres.

“It’s kind of mind-blowing every time you see them,” Emily says, ignoring a skeeter that landed on her cheek. “They don’t seem real. It takes my breath away every time.”

All the while, those mosquitoes hovered in clouds. Birds, an anole lizard or two, bees, butterflies, and various other insects flitted about, oblivious to our presence.

“I know the bugs are intense,” Emily says. “But, again, they are part of the wetland system. Wherever you have water in the South, you tend to have mosquitoes. But they do provide a resource for a huge range of insects and also birdlife and bats. And that’s why we tend to see a lot of biodiversity when we’re standing in a region like this.”

And this particular ecosystem is a testament to the genius of nature’s own design. The source of its very formation stretches far inland. Interior Georgia’s trademark red clay flows down 137 miles of the twisting Altamaha River, emptying into the expansive estuary that largely defines our region. That incoming red clay penetrates barrier islands such as Little St. Simons through tidal creeks, settling in low-lying, un-forested plains between the island’s dunes.

76 GOLDEN ISLES
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There, the clay seals near the surface, preventing saltwater intrusion. Rainwater is captured above, creating a freshwater wetland ripe for such uniquely-evolved creations as Hibiscus grandiflorus.

“These wetlands developed between these ancient dunes, making a place where a lot of wetlands species can succeed,” Emily explains. “That creates almost a bathwater effect. So whenever it rains and you get rainwater falling in, that’s what allows these flowers to thrive.”

Ever so briefly. The gorgeous blooms that graced our eyes had blossomed the night before. They had but a few hours left before wilting and dropping to the ground in the heat of the newly-emerging day.

“When it gets dark, they open up and will stay open for the duration of darkness and with the light they start to close,” Emily notes.

But fresh flowers would bloom anew that night on the very same stalks, repeating the process. Hibiscus grandiflorus’ brief season begins in early July. The nightly procession continues into early August, a span that coincides with coastal Georgia’s rainy season.

It seems as if nothing occurs by random chance in nature.

“In the summertime this region happens to be really resource rich,” Emily says. “It’s warm and we get lots of rain. There are lots of fresh nutrients in the ground. It’s a great time for flowering plants, which is probably what leads this species to bloom at this time. When the flowering plants bloom all at once, pollinators can go from one flower to the next flower to the next flower. It’s a really efficient use of resources.”

Hibiscus grandilforus is safe on Little St. Simons Island, for now anyway. Except for a clutch over overnight cabins and the social lodge at resort headquarters on Mosquito Creek, the island will remain untouched in perpetuity through a grant with The Nature Conservancy.

But the island’s stewards can do nothing about the global effects of human-induced climate change. Saltwater intrusion brought on by rising sea levels could forever alter the freshwater oasis that is attuned in harmony with Hibiscus grandiflorus.

“It’s scary to think about what the future holds for a lot of coastal habitats,” Emily says. “Freshwater species will not be able to succeed where salinity is present. Rising tides will inevitably impact them.”

But Hibiscus grandiflorus will certainly return this coming July, an elemental pageant of nature as enduring as the very geography of our Georgia coast. Still, most of you here in the Golden Isles will never bear witness to this enchanting display. Yet this aloof beauty needs us. Can we assume the humility to recognize that we, too, need Hibiscus grandiflorus?

“As long as this habitat is kept intact, they will continue to bloom,” Emily says. “There’s something reassuring about that. There’s a lot of consistency that can be celebrated in nature. And I would add that it can also be understood and protected.”

78 GOLDEN ISLES
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BLOSSOMIN’ BONE

S

Sunshine skipped across gently rolling waves. Overhead, a blanket of azure stretched for cloudless miles.

Amidst this idyllic scene, a crowd gathered along the wooden benches of the St. Simons Pier. At the center of the throng sat a troupe of meandering musicians known as Blossomin’ Bone.

The minstrels appeared seemingly by magic, instruments in hand.

Ayron Moeen stood with her guitar at the center. Her husband, Joshua “Bobby” Tyson, sat next to her cradling a banjo, cymbal anklets fastened above his bare feet. The rest of the band

gathered ‘round — Amanda Syrinek on the washboard; Andrew “Skeeter” Fewox on harmonica; and Holly Bassett on the stand up bass.

“Yeehaw Holly Bassett,” Ayron clarifies with a grin and a nod.

And then, they get to work. The cymbals clink as Bobby taps his feet. As the notes pour out, passersby stop, marveling at the music and the unique players.

Both are seemingly plucked from a bygone era.

A couple dances. Children smile, drop-

ping dollars into the antique coffee can before them. The band holds the audience spellbound until the song ends.

“We’re singer-songwriters,” Bobby explains to their newly-minted fans. “We mostly play our own music.”

They do know a few covers, one of those being a folk song from the 1920s.

“We aren’t good at playing other people’s music. I feel like we don’t do it justice,” Ayron adds.

That’s just fine because they have plenty of their own — Bobby, the

NOISEMAKERS
WORDS BY LINDSEY ADKISON
80 GOLDEN ISLES
PHOTOS BY LINDSEY ADKISON + SAM GHIOTO

primary songwriter, churns tunes out nearly every day. In fact, the group has recorded five albums since 2021.

“It’s crazy how many songs Bobby can write. He writes about one song a week, I swear,” Ayron says.

Amanda nods knowingly.

“He just spits them out. We have a group chat and he will be like, ‘what do you guys think of this? Here’s my tune and here are the lyrics,’” Amanda says.

Bobby’s musical interests began when he was a small child. He spent his days toying with his grandmother’s piano.

“When I was a wee kid, she had an upright lime green piano so when she babysat me I’d play on that and she’s like, ‘we’ve got to get him into music,’” he recalls. “But I’ve wanted to be in a band since I was like 11.”

Bobby and most of the gang met through the South Georgia-North Florida music scene. Ayron’s foray into music came a bit later.

“When I met Bobby, he taught me to play guitar,” she says. After they got together, she was introduced to the rest of the musicians.

“I’d known Bobby for about five years and then one day he turns up with this gorgeous woman … and I’m like, ‘who’s this broad?,’” Amanda remembers with a laugh. “She’s beautiful and she’s smart … and she plays and sings. Next thing you know, she’s busking with us.”

Busking is Blossomin’ Bone’s bread and butter. They spontaneously set up in public spaces and start playing. Like they did on this particular day, they usually draw a big crowd.

“We named one of our albums ‘State Line Schemers’ because we’ll be on the road between Georgia and Florida … we’ll set up outside of a gas station and start playing for gas money. People may see us and think we’re schemers,” Bobby says with a laugh. “We may already have the gas, but we’d rather play and maybe get it kicked down to us.”

The extra gas money comes in handy. The band spends a lot of time burning up the road, traveling between Jacksonville and Charleston. And they often pop in for gigs in the Golden Isles.

“Bobby and I live in Nahunta. Skeeter and Holly live in Jacksonville,” Ayron explains.

“Then me and my ol’ man live in Daytona,” Amanda offers.

It takes some doing to bring them all together. But when the stars align, it’s well worth the effort.

“We quit our jobs last year. I was working on Jekyll Island as a park ranger,” Ayron says. “But now, we just travel around playing. We love it. Rather than playing at a gig, only the people who want to hear you are going to stop.”

• Blossomin’ Bone’s music can be found on streaming services like Spotify. To find out where they’re boskin’ next, follow them on Instagram or Facebook.

JULY/AUGUST 2023 81
Ayron Moeen and Bobby Tyson of Blossomin’ Bone perform.

AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETYʼS VICTORY BOARDʼS CUREOKE

The American Cancer Societyʼs Victory Board recently hosted Cur eoke at Bennieʼs Red Barn on St. Simons Island. The fundraiser featured a number of performers singing for the cause. The board will ho st its black-tie Victory Gala on Nov. 10 at Frederica Golf Club. For more information about the cause, visit acsvictoryboard.org

Johnny Keen, left, and Kevin Tripplehorn Alfred Battey, left, and Monica Del Cid
COASTAL SEEN
Photo assistance by Jan Bone Michael Kaufman, from left, Jake Hightower, Ben Kinsey, and Brett Nobles CC Hightower, from left, Lexi Whatley, and Brandi Rowlen Daniel Blenkinsop, from left, James Smith, and Matt Robinson Hart Smodic, left, and Morgan Meadows Joshua Rustin, left, and Darby Dowdy Kelsi Brooks, from left, Meg Robinson, Mare Blenkinsop, and Ryan Smith Kimsey Langford, from left, Kelly Harman, Holly Kinsey, Bentley Kaufman, and Molly Nobles Lauren Price, from left, Daryle Mizelle, and Lacie Lee Liam and John McCallum Michelle Beard, left, and Lauralyn Mustaki Tina Rosario, left, and Bonita Tanner
82 GOLDEN ISLES
William Whatley, left, and Patton Kizzire

GLYNN VISUAL ARTSʼ 70TH BIRTHDAY

Glynn Visual Arts recently celebrated its 70th year with a gath ering at the art center on St. Simons Island. It was a part of a year-long program to highlight the nonprofitʼs history, as well as the art of the low country. For details on Glynn Visual Arts, visit glynnvisualarts.org.

Daniela Reinshagen, left, and Elizabeth LeSueur
COASTAL SEEN
Hannah Roberts, from left, Terry Craig, Barbara Reinhard, Debbie Craig, and Beth Foisy Leigh Kirkland, from left, Betty Oliver, and Michelle Register Lynda Tye, from left, Nancy Coverdale, and Paulette Atwood Kari Morris, left, and Sandy Deive
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Virginia Ellis, left, and Millie Wilcox
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MUSIC AND MEMORIES TO BENEFIT MEMORY MATTERS

Music and Memories, a fundraiser to benefit Memory Matters Glyn n, was recently held at the A.W. Jonesʼ Heritage Center on St. Simons Island. A number of musicians performed. There was food, drinks, and a silent auction. For details on Memory Matters, v isit memorymattersglynn.com.

COASTAL SEEN
Melissa Chamber, left, and Ashley Smith Michael Bauer, left, and Elaine Griffin Yolanda Neely, from left, Billy Coplan, Jamie Clayton, and Jordan Tyre Gracie Little, from left Rylee Martin, and Kate McMinn Jenny Gregory, from left, John Hartland, Kim Blancard, and Chris Helton Laura Martella and Annsley Felton Alexander Tharpe, left, and Kenall Copelan Brooke Baskin, left, and Jenna Gerwood Chandra and Steve Kendall
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Debbie Britt, from left, and Katie Fitzgerald

COASTAL SYMPHONY OF GEORGIAʼS SEASON FINALE

The Coastal Symphony of Georgia recently closed out its 40th se ason with a performance at Brunswick High School. The program featured the works of Sara Kirkland Snider, Carl Reinecke, and Dimitri Shostakovich. For more information on the symphony, visit coastalsymphonyofgeorgia.org.

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Chris Triplett, left, and Creta Nicols
COASTAL SEEN
Jim Lane, left, and Susan MowerLinda Ganas, left, and Lucy Brous Susan Cokley, left, and Sara Sheffiled David Wright, from left, Don and Susan Myers, and Majorie Mathieu
JULY/AUGUST 2023 85
Jack and Jean Earle McConnell, from left, and Sharon Flores Web and Cathy Spraetz

Safe Harborʼs inaugural campaign, Champions for Children, recen tly raised more than $137,000 for the local nonprofit. An event celebrating the fundraising effort was held at Port City Partnerʼs Queen an d Grant event space in downtown Brunswick. The American Bombshe lls performed and Shroederʼs Market provided the food. For details, visit harborsafeharborcenterinc.org.

Beau Dart, left, and Peter Feininger
COASTAL SEEN
SAFE HARBORʼS STRIPES AND BRIGHT STARS BRUNSWICK BASH Rayna Bertash, from left, Lizzie Piazza, Sandra Marante, Bentley Kaufman, Leah Nicoll, and Kate Dart Andrea Bleton, from left, Dominique Penny, and Rachel Green Kate Dart, from left, Bentley Kaufman, and Lizzie Piazza Brian Ennis, left, and Dr. Sherzine McKenzie Cheyenne and Kam Throckmorton Kalista Morton, left, and Mary Griffis Leslie Hartman, left, and Rachel Green Peter Feininger, left, and Mary Schellhorn Julie Willis, from left, Carson Jones, and Cissy Hightower
86 GOLDEN ISLES
Michael Kaufman, from left, Brad Piazza, and Mayor Cosby Johnson
TUESDAY JULY 4 6:00 PM FIREWORKS AT 9:00 PM FOOD MUSIC GAMES CRAFTS FREE WATERMELON and F I R E W O R K S JULY/AUGUST 2023 87 MORE THAN 50 YEARS OF QUALITY 2304 Glynn Ave, Brunswick, GA 31520 (912) 342-7835 | striplings.com Stop by for some famous Stripling’s sausage, take home a handful of our delicious jerky for the family, or just browse the store when you’re passing through. GOLF CLASSIC Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeast Georgia Golf Classic at Frederica Golf Club Tuesday, September 12, 2023 Learn More at www.BGCSEGA.com

STAR OF COASTAL GEORGIAʼS STARGAZING

STAR of Coastal Georgia, previously known as the STAR Foundation, recently hosted its annual STARgazing low country boil at Village Creek Landing on St. Simons Island. It included food, entertainment, and a “crazy pants” contest. Proceeds from the event will benefit STARʼs work readiness programs. To learn more about STAR of Coastal Georgia, visit starofcoastalga.org.

COASTAL SEEN
Ali and Lynn Cousins Jeff Buerstatte, from left, Rita Spalding, Betty Hewitt, and Marilyn Lear Bo Chambliss, from left, Susan Dunn, and Parker Lavin Odessa Rooks, from left, Elisia Scott, Clara Vinson, Vernita Hall, Dorothy Stewart, Betty McKenzie, and Mary Givens Meg Robinson, left, and Molly Wright Sharon and Terry Pasinetti Stephen and Jill Bailey Carrie Lorentz, left, and Jennifer Wilcoxon Cedric and Crystal King Janet Singleton, left, and Janice Haralson Kenneth Searles, left, and Thomas Arvin Bethany Rustin, from left, and Taylor and Sam Brooks Lauren Carter, from left, Ashley Ferre, Kelley Dare, Kyle Huffman, and Paden Carter Kelly and Patrick Malone, from left, and Jay Hightower
88 GOLDEN ISLES
Photo assistance by Jan Bone

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