I had a friend once tell me that you're either a "lifer" or a "leaver" if you grew up on St. Simons Island.
"The Island's boring as hell man; the real fun's in the city,” he’d often complain. I'd always tell him he wasn't looking in the right place and offer to take him boating, for I'd rather be surrounded by water than high rises any day of the week.
I knew I was a “lifer” early on. I've made my home here in the Golden Isles of Georgia. I'm raising my family here. I'm earning my living here as a photographer and business owner. The rivers, tidal creeks and barrier islands of Georgia have opened more doors to me than paths to the Atlantic. I've been actively photographing the islands of Georgia in a series of books published through The University of Georgia Press in hopes to preserve our history and raise awareness for our great coast. Our 100 miles of coastline in Georgia is the most environmentally important on the eastern seaboard. Our ecosystem is a habitat and spawning ground for hundreds of species vital to the success of the food chain. Our marsh hammocks are home to rare migratory birds. Our waters are favorited among right whales and great white sharks, just to name a few. The nutrient-rich soil created on our coast trickles miles west nourshing farmlands for the likes of Sea Island cotton and the great Vidalia onion.
The history of our coast is unparalleled. Some of the first pottery on the east coast was discovered here, and there's still an active debate that Georgia may be the true location of the first established 16th century French Fort Caroline—making us the actual First Coast. The Federal Reserve was born on Jekyll Island. Presidents, world leaders, and executives have used these islands as a playgrounds and meeting locations for hundreds of years.
Long before I had a driver’s license I was on the Altamaha River, paddling, exploring and camping with friends. This is largely because my parents got it. They knew how important immersion in this wild and wonderful natural place is to a child's upbringing. My son turns 8 this year. I want that for him. I want clean water for him to paddle in. I want undeveloped barrier islands for him to explore. Development needs to be smart, with a foundation in conservation. The Georgia Conservancy can help with this. This is why I am proud to support them and urge you too as well.
I still keep in touch with my big city buddy, not fully understanding why anyone would want to be a "leaver", but recognizing his passion and drive nonetheless. I still leave him voicemails of my 90 Yamaha idling at my favorite public boat ramp, adventure awaiting. Maybe one day he'll get it.