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Earth Day: Get up and get out there
Workshops focus on connecting to nature
Earth day-IMG 3382 russ bonham
Russ Bonham of the Savannah Climbing Coop scales the Rumbling Bald boulder field near Asheville, NC. - photo by Jessica Leigh Lebos

THE LAWS OF physics dictate that nature abhors a vacuum. A related but lesser known axiom postulates that you can't love nature if you're inside vacuuming.

In other words, in order to truly appreciate the planet in its purest form, you’ve got to throw open the door and get out there.

That’s the premise behind one of the key elements of this year’s Earth Day Savannah festival, greening up the already verdant Forsyth Park this Saturday, April 19.

Along with sustainable gardening classes, the ever-important Recyclerama drop-off for batteries and other pollutants (please note that latex paint will not be accepted this year) and a full day of awesome kids’ activities (build your own terrarium, what what?!), Earth Day presents an opportunity to find your new favorite outdoor activity.

While many Earth Day festivals around the country have devolved into kitschy craft fairs, Savannah’s city-sponsored event remains focused on education and activism. Dozens of organizations will be on hand to discuss the protection of local rivers, marshes, beaches and wild places.

But photos and brochures alone don’t necessarily inspire a sense of responsibility towards those special places the way a tactile experience of them can.

“One of the best ways to grow new activists and advocates for our resources is to help people form a personal connection with them,” says Margosia Jadkowski, Earth Day organizer and the city’s Environmental Services Planner for the City of Savannah.

“You can’t beat the connection you get after spending a day moving yourself through the landscape without a walls or windows around you.”

To get folks out into the landscape, Jadkowski and her colleagues have invited local outfitters and guides to introduce several outdoor sports conducive to the Lowcountry lifestyle. Don’t worry, this isn’t some X Games thrill ride requiring expensive equipment and abs of steel.

“We’ve focused on sports with a low environmental impact that allow people lots of interaction with the environment around them,” assures Jadkowski.

Quality Bike will introduce the basics of exploring on two wheels, and East Coast Paddleboarding will show how easy it can be to propel oneself through our local waterways. Touting the joys of Savannah’s unpaved paradise, trailrunner Dan Hernandez returns again this year’s Earth Day festival, as does Doug Galloway and Amy Livingood of the Savannah Climbing Coop.

“Conservation is a big part of climbing, and we’re going to focus on access and leaving no trace,” says Galloway, who opened the community climbing gym in 2012.

“By getting out and enjoying what’s outside, you can’t help but be aware of the impact you have.”

Livingood, the coop’s (yes, it’s pronounced “coop,” a nod to the gym’s clubhouse origins) operations manager, echoes that sentiment, adding that climbing attracts an energetic, environmentally-conscious community.

“Climbing often brings you close to nature in primitive camping areas and often requires a hike in to get to boulder fields and ‘crags’,” explains Livingood, who helps lead forays to outdoor climbing spots a few hours from Savannah.

Sometimes those spots are pristine, like Rumbling Bald outside Asheville, NC. Others can be littered with beer cans and broken glass. Livingood and Galloway support organizations like Southeastern Climbers Coalition, one of several organizations that work to protect the boulder fields of the Southeast. With their Earth Day workshop, they hope to spark interest in their sport and to build “awareness about what a privilege access is.”

Dan Hernandez will discuss access to natural beauty on trails a little closer to home during his workshop on local running trails. A SCAD systems administrator by day, Hernandez transforms on weekends into a ultra-marathoner (50 miles plus!) who coordinates races like the Rails to Trails 50K on McQueen’s Island and a half marathon on the shoreline of Little Tybee.

“There’s nothing like the peace of nature, hearing the birds chirp, the water lapping at the shore,” he describes.

“Even if you live in the city, you want these green places to be around you, near you.”

He plans to provide directions to several of his favorite unpaved paths, including Priest’s Landing on Skidaway Island and Tom Triplett Park near Pooler. A committed conservationist, Hernandez also organizes clean-up days at the privately-owned Roberd’s Dairy Farm on the city’s east side, home to several wooded trails.

He agrees that spending quality time under the sky and away from the hustle of is the best way to foster appreciation for and a sense of belonging to this fragile and amazing planet.

“When I’m run on the streets, I want to tune out the sounds of traffic,” says Hernandez.

“When I’m nature, I get immersed in the sounds. I can become part of it.”

Earth Day Savannah

When: 8 a.m. -3 p.m., Sat. April 19

Where: Forsyth Park

Cost: Free


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