Nearly everyone has cabin fever and is itching to get outdoors, and there’s some good news. Stay-at-home orders and other pandemic-related restrictions are beginning to loosen, and there are plenty of places in the Golden Isles where folks can go outside and play, cycle, walk, run and sightsee. The St. Simons Land Trust manages many of the best of them.
We have suggestions for having some outdoor fun and staying within the mandates of CDC and state authorities regarding social distancing. This means to maintain a six-foot distance from people with whom you don’t share a household. According to the CDC, this is an important level of COVID-19 prevention, since the risk of its transmission seems to be highest when people are in sustained close contact with each other.
Getting outdoors is good medicine, and will give you a much-needed mental reset. (continued on next page)
Emily Ellison, executive director of the St. Simons Land Trust, has recommendations for vast outdoor spaces – some of which are nature preserves, others are more park-like – that offer boundless recreational activities ideal for right now, and in the weeks, months and years ahead.
• Cannon’s Point Preserve – A 608-acre area on the north end of St. Simons Island that features a fishing platform, a canoe and kayak launch, the Terry Thomas Coastal Ecology Lab, two observation towers, “The Oak Rotunda” picnic area, abundant wildlife, miles of trails for walking, running and cycling, the preserved ruins of the plantation once owned by John Couper and views from across the river and marsh to Little St. Simons Island.
“It’s a 5-mile round trip to hike or bike ride to the ruins, with additional side trails along the way. — emily ellison
• Guale Preserve – There is parking for 15 cars at Middle Road entrance off of Lawrence Road, the 1.5-mile Polly’s Trail, ideal for walking and cycling, diverse habitat and plant life, including a hickory grove and a stand of pond pines, picnicking spots and opportunities for birding and photography. At the Village Drive entrance, there is parking for 12 cars, and access to the quarter-mile loop of Janet’s Trail which features views of Village Creek.
“Along this trail are numerous rare and native plants, stunning views of Village Creek and the marsh, and benches on which to relax, reflect and enjoy the quiet.
— Emily Ellison
• Frederica Park + the Alice Richards Botanical Trail are perhaps the most traditional park experience of the greenspace developed by the land trust. Now owned and maintained by Glynn County, the property was first given to the land trust by Sea Island Co.
“This private/public partnership resulted in the first new public park on St. Simons Island in 50 years.
— Emily Ellison
The Alice Richards Botanical Trail includes a wide, winding path, a labyrinth, a fairy garden and gazebo (all funded by separate private entities), and a plethora of plants and birds.
Frederica Park includes a paved path around its multi-purpose athletic field, perfect for jogging or biking, a dog park, picnic pavilions, a playground, picnic spots and restrooms.
• The Historic Harrington School + Harrington Park – Although the schoolhouse is not owned by the land trust, it sits on land trust property leased to the St. Simons African American Heritage Coalition. The cultural center inside the school is open most days, and its grounds provide a pleasant place to stop and rest.
Next door, Harrington Park has 10 acres of wooded area perfect for hiking and biking.
“There are also places for picnics on the property and observations platforms along the ponds and marsh.
— Emily Ellison
• Bike paths along Frederica Road – These multi-purpose paths provide access to three of the land trust’s properties, including the SSLT office at 1810 Frederica, the site of the former Mildred Huie Museum at 1819 Frederica Road and the John Gilbert Nature Trail, just a little farther north on Frederica.
“John Gilbert is one of the most popular sites on the island, with a nature trail, seating and a boardwalk that leads into the marsh with views of Sea Island,” Ellison said.
The other sites, including the Mildred Huie property and land trust headquarters, might be considered more passive, but visitors are welcome. The land trust office site at 1810 Frederica actually has a hidden park in its backyard featuring picnic tables and a view of mature live oaks. More offerings are on the horizon.
“We are purchasing bike racks for 1810, and will soon have a small lending library in our front yard that we believe will encourage people to park their bikes, take a rest and then head north to John Gilbert and beyond,” Ellison said.
Social distancing restrictions are becoming more relaxed as time passes, but some of the protocols will likely remain in effect for months to come. The good news is that it remains healthy for people go outdoors and be active. “Each of the properties … provide ample open spaces for social distancing and beautiful settings in which visitors can jog, ride bikes, picnic, read, sketch, take photographs and enjoy birding and other activities that enhance their connections with St. Simons’ abundant natural areas,” Ellison said.
Visitors are encouraged to bring with them bug spray, sun screen and plenty of drinking water. For more information please visit www.sslt.org