By MARY STARR
For 19 years, the St. Simons Land Trust has been holding its annual oyster roast, and although the locations have changed over the years, one thing has remained constant — the evening provides a good time with great food, fellowship and entertainment, all while raising money to fund its programs under the ancient oaks and abundant Spanish moss of Gascoigne Bluff Park.
This year, the oyster roast will be held from 5-8 p.m. Jan. 19. Tickets are $85 per person, and can be reserved by visiting www.sslt.org.
Emily Ellison, development and communications director for the land trust, said that one major development involves the addition of Parker’s as a presenting sponsor.
St. Simons Land Trust staffer Marty Moody expanded upon the new additions to the this year’s event, which include oyster shells donated to Honey Creek Episcopal Camp and Retreat Center at Dover Bluff, to help reconstruct the bluff that was severely damaged during Hurricane Irma, as a living shoreline.
There will also be some new faces around this year.
“We have several new chairs,” said Moody. “Maria Jennings, Clay Caldwell, Randall Moody and Mary Ellen Long, (are) joining Joe Wills, Richie Williamson, Georgia Kellog, Rebecca and Craig Johnson, Justus Davis, Marti Jeffers, Mike Malone, Bob Thompson and Mark Messersmith.”
Land trust T-shirts, hats and aprons will be available for purchase, and attendees will notice the addition of kettle fire pits and moon lights for atmosphere.
As always a number of island restaurants will be represented, in addition to plenty of fresh oyster, roasted on site, and frosty beverages.
Entertainment will be provided by Jamie Renee and The Walkers.
Ellison said 2018 was a stellar year for the organization.
“2018 was an incredibly eventful, productive and exciting year at the land trust, and the organization’s leadership envisions that 2019 will be equally impactful,” she said.
The board of directors held a strategic planning retreat in October during which a number of goals were developed.
“(Those include) preparing for reaccreditation by the national Land Trust Alliance, increasing outreach and community education regarding conservation and stewardship of the island’s land and resources and developing long-term land management strategies,” Ellison explained.
Topping the list of land management strategies includes “careful compliance” with the legal and regulatory processes regarding “phased public access” to the 258 acres of the former Musgrove estate acquired last August.
“By summer, the land trust also hopes to be settled into new offices at 1810 Frederica, site of where a dollar store had been proposed, but that was purchased last spring through a grant from The Anschutz Foundation,” Ellison said. “That grant included funds restricted to the purchase and renovations of the property as part of an overall strategy to help curb congestion and commercial creep along Frederica Road.”
Sara Baker is the director for the 1% for St. Simons program, which has been operational for a little over a year.”
“(It) has 34 business partners participating in the giving program,” Baker said. “Partners include … restaurants, media and service providers, retailers, art galleries, lodging and many others.”
The program allows patrons of these businesses to add 1 percent to their purchases to benefit the land trust.
“While 1 percent of the cost of lunch or dinner at a local restaurant might not seem like much, all those pennies add up to thousands of dollars from the community, and support the land trust’s work in protecting and preserving the historic, cultural and ecological features of St. Simons.”