The Balance of Nature
The Ecology Club’s Unique Role in Callawassie Island’s Commitment to Perfection
Callawassie Island – the place, the community, and the mindset – anchors itself on three key words: Warmth. Balance. Connection. Appropriately “centered” in the middle is the concept of Balance. Of all Callawassie’s clubs and interests, none embody Balance more than the island’s highly recognized Ecology Club.
The ecology of the low country is one of the most intricate, delicate, and beautiful in our nation. Callawassie Island is an environment where all these elements come together in perfect harmony. Though the South Carolina Coast is speckled with so many of these eco-havens, what makes Callawassie utterly unique is it intermingles the height of natural perfection with a community where residents take a personal interest as well as responsibility, committed to protecting that environment, celebrating it, and sending into tomorrow better than they found it. The ecology is as balanced as the relationship between the nature and the people who make their home among it.
To foster this relationship, the Ecology Club at Callawassie rises to the top as one of the more essential initiatives, and it’s an influence the club takes seriously, evidenced by its work as an official “Committee.” Their efforts continue to result in recognized standings by national preservation societies and organizations.
Noting one of the most historic, Callawassie Island was the first community in South Carolina to be recognized as a National Wildlife Federations Community Habitat. The Ecology Committee played a pivotal role in this accomplishment by rallying residents. Seeing how much personal passion and care homeowners invested into their own backyards, it was evident these neighbors and caretakers of their individual plots of land could work together. By registering each backyard as a habitat, the island was able to submit as a “Community Habitat,” which was key in earning the recognition.
The committee was also the driving force behind the designation as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary through the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary for Golf Courses. The effort was spearheaded by Callawassie Director of Agronomy Billy Bagwell and led to its distinction as one of only 23 golf courses in South Carolina to hold the title. Bagwell was quoted saying, “For our golf course to get this recognition from the Audubon Society is kind of a thrill. As South Carolina’s first Community Wildlife Habitat, certified by the National Wildlife Foundation, we welcome Audubon’s interest and recognition.”
Tara Donadio, director of Cooperative Sanctuary Programs at Audubon International recognized the community specifically for the influence of the Ecology Committee stating, “Callawassie Island’s club has shown a strong commitment to its environmental program. To reach certification, a course must demonstrate that they are maintaining a high degree of environmental quality in a number of areas. They are to be commended for their efforts to provide a sanctuary for wildlife on the golf course property.”
Recognition on this level was celebrated at home too, with Callawassie officials pointing to members of the Ecology Committee for their past and ongoing efforts with outreach programs and events that influenced these designations – including the fanfare annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count.
The Bird Count is one of the most anticipated, fun, family friendly events of the year. Known as “the nation’s longest-running community bird science project,” it’s been in effect for more than 120 years. Recent counts at Callawassie recorded over 1000 birds of 74 different species. The faces of the Volunteer Counters in the Ecology Club’s annual count photo say everything you need to know about the rewards of involvement. You’re a part of something important, special, and incredibly long lasting.
Communications and Membership Director Lindsey Cooler worded the club and committee credit well saying, “We are so proud to be a National Wildlife Habitat and are thrilled to add another environmental-friendly milestone to our portfolio” as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. Crediting the club and committee of course, means crediting those involved – volunteers, members, residents who registered their properties and work year-round to maintain the balance and integrity of their small piece of the ecological pie.
Participants remain invested in part because of the Ecology Committee’s ongoing educational programs, “involving people in the environmental impact we’re having on our island and the sea islands around here,” according to Francesca Denton, “We do that through, educational programs. We bring in speakers to enlighten us about our habitat and increase the awe that we have for this area. We’re trying to educate and inform, but in an entertaining way so that they engage with the community and environment while being educated about the importance of preserving this habitat.” The club avows, “By educating others on the intricacies of our island’s ecosystem the Ecology Club is ensuring our natural surroundings will continue to thrive for years to come.”
Denton says, “Callawassie does a spectacular job of keeping it natural and having a wildlife habitat that attracts: Deer, bugs and insects – all ones good for the forest – Live Oak trees which are our premier species of tree, we have a lot of shorebirds here because we have the salt marshes and Spartina grass which is good for the Periwinkle that are the food source for the crabs that are all over island.”
That list of natural highlights alone is an inviting menu and a siren call to this quiet but vibrant island. Those who call Callawassie home say they have “found best place to live in the low country.” The Ecology Committee and those they involve in their efforts are making sure it stays that way.