Like thousands of other people, Jim Ritterhoff fell in love with almost everything about Hilton Head Island when he first began visiting years ago — the island’s natural beauty, the unhurried way of life and the warmth of the local people he befriended. Being on a Sea Island whose residents cared about protecting the environment was a good fit for Ritterhoff, who leads an organization dedicated to saving one of the planet’s most precious natural resources: coral reefs.
Beautiful Hilton Head Nature
COALITIONS AIM TO CONVINCE BUSINESSES, CONSUMERS TO SKIP THE STRAW
This summer, two campaigns in Beaufort County have targeted a common enemy: the plastic straw.
And though both local initiatives are focusing on convincing area businesses and residents to voluntarily ditch the straws, the movement to ban the drinking devices and other plastics has gained momentum recently: A Facebook video showing researchers removing a plastic straw from the nostril of a sea turtle in Costa Rica went viral; Seattle recently became the first U.S. city to ban single-use plastic straws and cutlery; and California and Hawaii are contemplating statewide regulations. The national movement is using the hashtag #stopsucking.
SPONSOR A NEST TO HELP SAVE SEA TURTLES
Loggerhead turtles returned to Hilton Head Island when the nesting season began in May. As of mid- June, 79 nests had been laid on the island’s beaches. Many locals and visitors hope for the rare chance to see a female nest on the beach at night and eagerly anticipate the emergence of hatchlings. A few lucky beachgoers will witness the baby turtles’ first crawl into the ocean.
VOLUNTEER HELPS CARE FOR PINCKNEY ISLAND, THE REFUGE THAT RAISED HER
A quarter of a million people visit Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge every year. But Alice Boyd remembers a time when visitors to Pinckney Island — the largest of five islands in the 4,053-acre refuge, and the only one open to the public — could be counted in the dozens, the island was accessible only by boat and she and her brother were the only children for miles around.
Once hunted for their blubber, North Atlantic right whales are now among the rarest mammals in the world. Only about 500 of the species exist, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, making them one of the most endangered marine mammals.
Right whales can weigh up to 70 tons and grow up to 60 feet. Commercial whalers christened them “right whales” because they are the “right” whale to hunt: they move slowly, are easy to chase, and carry copious amounts of blubber.
When President Donald Trump’s administration announced in January its five-year plan to open up opportunities for gas and oil drilling in 90 percent of federal waters — including the stretch of ocean off the Lowcountry’s coastline — the uproar on land was swift and strong.
A month later, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster met with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to make the state’s opposition to the plan known and to ask that South Carolina be exempted. His sentiment echoed those expressed by U.S. Reps. Mark Sanford and Jim Clyburn, as well as many in the Palmetto State like Hilton Head Island Mayor David Bennett.
THE PURCHASE OF ST. PHILLIPS ISLAND DOUBLES SIZE OF HUNTING ISLAND STATE PARK
A private island a short boat ride away from Hunting Island State Park is the latest addition to South Carolina’s park system. And Lowcountry residents will be able to start exploring it soon.
At the end of December, media mogul Ted Turner sold his private barrier island, St. Phillips, to South Carolina for $5 million.
ANNUAL CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT HAS BECOME A HOLIDAY TRADITION
As part of the world’s largest and longest-running citizen science project, bird lovers in more than 2,500 locations in the Western Hemisphere will participate in the 118th Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. Between Dec. 14 and Jan, 5, each group will cover a 15-mile radius and tally the birds spotted.
A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE ENDS IN THE REAL SOUTH
Having worn out the old route from Hilton Head Island, where I grew up, to college in Charleston along S.C. 17, it was only a matter of time before I started taking detours. “Into the exit zone” I would call it — the deep, green South. In just a few years of taking this route, I saw the old South recede under the pressures of development. The highway expanded, displacing an old, painfully nostalgic Texaco station, and my search for the essence of what was left grew ever more urgent. Overgrown in kudzu, the barns would speak to me. Shrouded by oaks, the darker the road, the better. And it was on one of these countless forays that I chanced upon the bridge to nowhere.