The sixth annual Earth Day celebrations for Hinesville and Liberty County were a success, despite high winds that played havoc with covered shelters, static displays and signs.
“This is an awareness event,” said Sarah Swida, executive director for Keep Liberty Beautiful. “It started out just a few information booths about storm water run-off. Now it’s 63 different booths and games. It’s our way of educating people.”
Located on the YMCA soccer field, one of the firsts booths children and adults saw was a large RV from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Resources Division. Sonny Emmert with the Brunswick office explained how important shellfish are to the coastal ecosystem and what the state is doing to improve the habitat for oysters, clams and other shellfish that filter impurities from the water.
“Today, we’re showing how we’re re-building our (oyster) reefs,” said Emmert as he handed some literature to Atiana Christian, 10, who attends Joseph Martin Elementary. “We’re trying to enhance our oyster reefs by recycling the shells of old oysters. We collect the shells from individuals and restaurants, and then we allow them to bleach in the sun for about a year before putting them back out in the water to build new reefs.”
Atiana’s father, retired soldier Hans Christian, believes the community’s Earth Day event has grown considerably in recent years.
“It’s gotten a lot bigger over the last few years,” said Christian, who said he retired in February. “I missed the last one because I was deployed to Afghanistan. (Atiana) likes it, and I think it’s important to learn about the environment.”
Models, called “enviroscapes,” that showed stormwater pollution and wetlands were popular with students at one stop. Phil Odom, a retired commercial fisherman and member of the Liberty County Water Resources Council, and Debra Attical, also a council member, used a spray bottle and pitcher as hands-on learning devices in conjunction with their upland and wetland displays.
A gritty powder was sprinkled on the display to show what a little fertilizer or poison might do in a light rain — via the spray bottle — then what happens if a downpour — via the pitcher — washes it into surrounding lowlands.
Amberly Wentz, 13, was surprised when she saw how quickly and how far the fertilizer/poison spread, even without understanding what harmful effects it might cause.
At the Waterfirst booth, manned by Sarah Lumpkin and Deiridra Weeks, children lined up to get a water-soaked “fish bag” and then attempted to throw it through circles on a target board. For playing a game or interacting with the hands-on part of an information booth, children received Earth Day dollars to spend later at a prize table that was one of the tents blown away by the high winds.
David Duke, chief ranger for the Georgia Forestry Department for Liberty, Long and South Bryan County, manned a table explaining Georgia’s timber industry and the importance of trees. Students got pencils and other trinkets along with useful information.
Ashley Caevas and Leah Poole hosted a table that made use of old CD cases. Caevas guided students step-by-step in making a colorful craft. Placing shaving cream on a glass surface, they spread it like cake icing then added watercolors of whatever shade they preferred. A small sheet of white paper was pressed on the concoction then the excess was wiped away. The remaining color print was then framed in the old CD case.
Teen Achievers coordinator Thea Mumuni and landscape designer Olivia Mickalonis showed teens and adults how to make a container garden with metal trash cans and 5-gallon buckets, then how to make a small garden plot.
“It’s a source of fun for the family. It’s a source of food,” said Mickalonis. “Anybody can do it. People are trying to be creative about saving money, and gardening is becoming popular again.”
Games such as Eco-Jeopardy, plus a butterfly creation station, composting and mosquito control information and organic gardening, including where to buy locally grown organic vegetables, were also part of this year’s Earth Day events.