A Great Blue Heron at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park. (©Eric Monaco/Flickr, Creative Commons)
By Jennifer McKee
Earth Day is coming up on April 22, but we should be taking care of our planet each and every day. And there are many easy things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. One of the most fulfilling is supporting local environmental advocacy organizations that help protect water, land and wildlife. With the beautiful spring weather upon us, now’s the perfect time to learn more about and enjoy these precious resources.
Phinizy Swamp Nature Park
A great way to view Augusta’s native flora and fauna, a trip to Phinizy Swamp Nature Park is a treat for naturalists. Free and open to the public, the park offers many trails that make exploring easy for all age levels—you don’t have to be an experienced hiker to enjoy yourself here. A popular favorite is the wooden boardwalk with a covered observation deck at its end from which you can view herons, egrets and many other birds. Additional trails afford views of turtles, beavers, otters and alligators—don’t worry, they’re all enclosed!
There are many ways to get involved at Phinizy Swamp, from volunteer clean-ups to summer camps and classes to guided hikes. Want to get out after dark? Try Phinizy’s lovely Full Moon Hikes.
Devoted to keeping the Savannah River clean and healthy, Savannah Riverkeeper regularly hosts clean-up events and promotes lifelong learning about conservation inside the classroom and out. The organization has been in Augusta for more than 20 years; in 2021 alone, it removed 65.5 tons of trash from the river and saw almost 3,500 hours of volunteerism. It’s a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance.
Edisto Riverkeeper is also part of the Waterkeeper Alliance, and looks to sustain a healthy Edisto River system for current and future generations to enjoy.
The south fork of the Edisto River runs through Aiken, and the Aiken State Park has a canoe trail through which you can access the river—it’s a popular spot for recreational boating. For information on events, or to volunteer or donate, visit the events page.
Central Savannah Land River Trust
The Central Savannah Land River Trust is a nationally accredited nonprofit that’s passionate about saving the lands and waters in CSRA communities. In 2021, it saved more than 1,000 acres of forests, farms and rivers, including Shell Bluff on the Savannah River (Burke County), Young Family Woodlands (Columbia County) and Greenbrier Creek Headwaters (Columbia County). Perhaps the trust’s most recognized success story is the Augusta Canal Trail.
To learn more and stay connected, visit the trust on Facebook.
Sierra Club’s Savannah River Group
One of the nation’s largest natural resource advocacy groups, the Sierra Club has an Augusta chapter. Among the issues it addresses is transportation and clean energy, wildlife protection and water quality (through its Adopt-A-Stream program).
The club meets regularly and produces a newsletter that’s sent out to subscribers through email; click here for the Zoom link, see upcoming events or to sign up for the newsletter.
Aiken Land Conservancy
A private nonprofit that preserves Aiken’s heritage and natural resources, the Aiken Land Conservancy works to protect Aiken’s Historic Horse District, fragile ecosystems, working farms and waterways. It also partners with the City of Aiken to protect the city’s trees and parkways, particularly the live oaks that line South Boundary Avenue.
ALC’s operating funds come directly from membership dues and donations; another way you can help out is through volunteerism. To learn more, visit its support page.
Augusta Aiken Audubon Society
The Augusta-Aiken Audubon Society promotes the natural world, educating the public about birds, wildlife and the lands they live on. Those from the CSRA who join the National Audubon Society automatically become members of the Augusta-Aiken chapter.
This active group organizes a number of field trips and other activities that are free to the popular. One of its most popular sites is the Silver Bluff Sanctuary, a 3,400-acre woodland overlooking the Savannah River with walking trails that are open from dawn to dusk. More than 200 bird species have been spotted here, including Bald Eagles and Wood Storks.
Hitchcock Woods Foundation
Hitchcock Woods is the largest urban natural forest in the country, with habitats and ecosystems rarely still found in the South. It has 2,100 acres and 70 miles of sandy trails that have been used by pedestrians and equestrians since the early 1800s. The Hitchcock Woods Foundation is responsible for its preservation and maintenance.
The woods is a haven for wildlife, flora and fauna lovers and is open from dusk until dawn. Admission is free, but the foundation relies on private support for its stewardship; learn more about ways to donate to its upkeep.