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Federation Celebrates Annual Pelican Awards

2020 Award photo taken by Tom Earnhardt, writer, co-producer and host of UNC-TV’s “Exploring North Carolina.”

The North Carolina Coastal Federation celebrated Thursday this year’s Pelican Awards, recognizing 14 recipients from along the coast for their coastal stewardship.

In years past, the event drew hundreds to the Crystal Coast Civic Center in Morehead City for the awards ceremony, a silent auction, oysters and a range of treats specially prepared for the summer event.

This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers opted to hold the celebration online using Zoom. The virtual event kicked off with a coastal social featuring a special toast to the coast followed by the awards program honoring the Pelican Award recipients.

“Once again we’re blessed with a rich group of wonderfully talented and dedicated people who enable the Coastal Federation to fulfill its mission as an organization. It’s with great pleasure that we can thank them for their contribution and the inspiration they provide for our work,” Todd Miller, executive director of the federation, told Coastal Review Online.

“Doing this event virtually is a challenge, and I hope we don’t have to present our awards in this manner in future years,” he said. “Nothing replaces being able to spend some time together celebrating what has been accomplished, and having rich conversations that renew and establish new friendships and working partnerships.”

The North Carolina Coastal Federation is a member-supported nonprofit organization focused on protecting and restoring the North Carolina coast. The Pelican Award program began in 2003 to recognize individuals, businesses and government agencies that have shown exemplary coastal stewardship.

The federation provided the following information about the 2020 Pelican Award winners.

Ocracoke Observer publishers Peter Vankevich and Connie Leinbach for their Dedicated Service to Coastal Community Journalism

Peter Vankevich and Connie Leinbach

Vankevich and Leinbach, who worked to provide vital information to island residents following the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian in early September 2019, were helpful sources for Coastal Review Online, the Washington Post and other news media in reporting to the world the situation on the island.

Coastal Review’s relationship with the publishers was well established before the storm but has become more valuable while working to report the continuing challenges Ocracoke faces and the community’s resilience. They were key partners in the multipart series on changing attitudes toward climate science on the North Carolina coast that was part of the Pulitzer Center’s Connected Coastlines initiative.

“We are honored to receive the Pelican Award from the North Carolina Coastal Federation. The Ocracoke Observer’s mission is to provide news and information that impacts the Ocracoke community, much of which coincides with issues of interest to the Coastal Federation. We are also pleased to be a collaborating partner with the Federation’s Coastal Review Online,” Vankevich said in an email.

“In 2013, the Coastal Federation honored Ocracoke watermen James Barrie Gaskill and Gene Balance with this prestigious award for their commitment to restoring the coastal habitat in rebuilding oyster reefs off Beacon Island in Pamlico Sound. Although diminished, this now tiny island continues to be an important brown pelican rookery. To follow in their footsteps is both humbling and another reason to be proud,” he continued.

Paula Gillikin for Exceptional Leadership and Facilitation of Coastal Stewardship

Paula Gillikin

Gillikin, a Beaufort native, has been the central sites manager overseeing the Rachel Carson and Permuda Island National Estuarine Research reserves since 2007. She has been heavily involved in the development of the North Carolina Marine Debris Action Plan. Gillikin helped manage and organize the removal of almost 127,000 pounds of debris along Beaufort’s waterways in partnership with the town and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

“Receiving a Pelican Award from a well-respected coastal advocacy and protection organization is exciting,” Gillikin said. “What’s more exciting is the award and its representation of an effective collaboration of government, nonprofit, academic, and business entities to address marine debris, including abandoned and derelict vessels. This work benefits everyone who lives, works, and plays along our spectacular coastline.”

Whitney Jenkins for Exemplary Commitment to Coastal Resource Training and Collaboration

Whitney Jenkins

Jenkins, through her role as coastal training program coordinator with the North Carolina Coastal Reserve & National Estuarine Research Reserve, brings coastal environmental issues and accompanying solutions to a range of audiences. She provided invaluable help to the federation when it was forced to move a series of meetings from in-person to virtual due to COVID-19.

“It is such an honor to be receiving this award, especially alongside my co-worker Paula Gillikin. It’s excited to be recognized for the work I love to do – bringing coastal stakeholders together and providing training for professionals to protect our coastal resources. And it is a pleasure to do this work in partnership with the federation staff. Thank you,” Jenkins told Coastal Review Online.

Terri Kirby-Hathaway, Jodie Shelton-Herman, and Jim and Emily Gould and Waveriders Coffee, Deli & Pub in Nags Head for their Dedicated Community Leadership and Collaboration

Waveriders Coffee during a Green Drinks gathering

Waveriders Coffee has hosted the monthly meetings of the Outer Banks group of Green Drinks, an international organization with groups in over 500 cities worldwide that meet monthly for informal sessions. Federation staff is invited regularly to share its work.

Kirby-Hathaway led the group from 2010 until 2016, when Shelton-Herman and the Goulds began organizing. The restaurant is also an Ocean Friendly Establishment, committed to environmentally friendly practices.

Kirby-Hathaway told Coastal Review Online that she’s very honored to receive a Pelican Award for her work with Outer Banks Green Drinks, which was started in 2009 by Sarah Falkowski.

“When Sarah moved to Florida in 2010, I took over the lead with OB Green Drinks, and then passed the torch to Jodie (Herman), Jim and Emily (Gould) toward the end of 2016.  Happy to have environmentally-minded folks to carry on this 11-year tradition,” she wrote in an email. “The group that attends OB Green Drinks is so diverse, from young professionals to retired educators and scientists! They’re the reason I kept the program going – the group is so appreciative and great to hang out with!  I keep attending the gatherings since I turned over the reins, love hanging out with that group.”

Bill Husted for Outstanding Volunteer Service to Our Coast

Bill Husted

Husted has participated in almost all aspects of the federation’s work at the Wanchese office, including collecting oyster shell as part of the restaurant-to-reef shell recycling program, picking up trash on the side of the highway, assisting with background research on new federation programs and he has been instrumental in launching the newly created North Carolina Oyster Trail.

“My wife introduced me to the Outer Banks 34 years ago and we made it our home five years ago. It is a unique place but it needs to be cared for like any other asset,” Husted said, who is originally from Louisville, Kentucky, and resided in Northern Virginia and Annapolis, Maryland, where he learned to sail and enjoy time on the water.

“After I retired, I wanted to spend time to help protect the Outer Banks’ environment and found the Coastal Federation. They do a great job of investing in strategic initiatives that make large impacts on the environment which create volunteer opportunities at the local level,” Husted said. “I’ve been able to work on their oyster programs, living shoreline projects, clean up storm debris, and pick up a lot of litter from our roadways. The Coastal Federation has also been supportive of projects that I have identified and provided resources to improve our local community. The work is rewarding in that I can see results at the end of the day and feel that I’m helping protect the Outer Banks.”

Barnes Sutton for Dedicated Leadership in Cultural Heritage and Conservation Efforts

Barnes Sutton

Sutton, Navassa’s director of planning and development since 2017, has led the small town west of downtown Wilmington through growth while also representing the town’s interests throughout the cleanup and redevelopment of the Kerr McGee Superfund Site. A creosote wood treatment plant operated at there from 1936-1974, leaving behind contamination at the site and adjacent groundwater and soils.

The town has been working with the EPA, a multi-state settlement trust and partners to clean up the pollution and remediate the environmental damages in the primarily underserved community of Navassa.

“I was very excited to find out that I was receiving the award and be in the company of so many great people. In my position with the Town of Navassa, protecting fragile ecosystems and preserving cultural heritage areas go hand in hand. With the support of the Council and supporting staff, I have been trusted with the opportunity to install truly unique, eco-cultural infrastructure that will tell the story of the Town for years to come,” Sutton said in an interview. “I will always be thankful for those who have done great work before me which has ultimately guided me to being able to work with organizations, such as the NC Coastal Federation, to accomplish these joint goals.”

Town of Swansboro for Dedication to Restoring Coastal Water Quality and Habitats

Swansboro worked with the federation to develop a watershed restoration plan in 2017 to reduce polluted stormwater runoff flowing into nearby creeks and the White Oak River.

The town installed three rain gardens, two permeable pavement parking lots and two cisterns that collect runoff from their public works and fire stations as well as a 250-foot living shoreline to restore salt marsh habitat and reduce erosion along the Town’s shore.

Ivy Ingram and Matt Walker for Outstanding Community Advocacy and Engagement

Walker and Ingram served as co-chairs of the Surfrider Foundation Outer Banks Chapter for over a decade, leading campaigns to oppose offshore drilling and reduce marine debris, focusing on increasing local activism as well as lobbying for state and federal legislative action.

Diane H. Miller for Dedicated Leadership in Support of Living Shorelines

More than 15 acres of Oriental’s Whittaker Pointe peninsula’s shoreline had eroded away. Miller, who serves as town manager, secured multiple grants and funding to work with the federation to build a living shoreline around the peninsula to help restore the marsh habitat that was lost and further reduce erosion.

Kenneth and Joy Tilley for Preserving Coastal Waterfront Open Space for Future Generations

Kenneth and Joy Tilley

The Tilleys of Earlysville, Virginia, who own a second home in Carteret County, donated 10 acres of undeveloped property known as “Swimming Point” near the Newport River entrance to Core Creek, north of Beaufort to the federation for preservation. The $50,000 parcel that includes saltmarsh and a pine forest is adjacent to the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and Bell and Powell creeks.

“From a great-great-great-grandfather who was the lighthouse keeper at Cape Lookout, more to a great-grandfather whose fishing boat was named for my mother, we seek a legacy of clean water and an accessible, healthy, productive coast for future generations,” Ken Tilley said in a statement. “Preservation of the natural habitats of the North Carolina coast is of the greatest importance, and we are so pleased to take this opportunity to give land for such purpose. My family’s roots have long been embedded in coastal Carolina.”

Onslow County Solid Waste, Holly Ridge Public Works Department, Joseph Huie, Joseph Huie Jr., Joshua Whitney and Michael Willis for Collaborative Efforts to Keep Our Coast Clean of Debris

The Huies, Willis and Whitney, all commercial fishermen from Sneads Ferry, have collected and removed 190 tons of debris from the marshes and islands of Onslow, Pender and New Hanover counties.

The Holly Ridge public works department loaded 45 tons of debris into dumpsters at the federation’s Morris Landing Clean Water Preserve and the Onslow County Solid Waste Department supplied dumpsters and free transport during the cleanup of Stump Sound, saving the crew countless hours and the project thousands of dollars of grant funds.

Greater Wilmington Chamber Foundation for Outstanding Business and Community Volunteerism

Wilmington Chamber’s Work On Wilmington, or WOW, program since 2010 has partnered with the Coastal Federation, New Hanover County Schools and Carolina Beach State Park to engage over 800 volunteers in water quality protection and habitat restoration projects. Organized each year by the current class of Leadership Wilmington, a civic leadership development program of the Wilmington Chamber Foundation, WOW brings together volunteers to take on community stewardship projects in Wilmington and New Hanover County.

Bill Hart for Decades of Outstanding Leadership to Restore North Carolina’s Coastal Waters

The New Hanover County Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor and chairman, Hart played a key role in creating the statewide Community Conservation Assistance Program that provides cost share funding for residents to reduce runoff from their property. Hart also helped create the Lower Cape Fear Stewardship Development Awards program.

N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Engineering Division for Dedicated Partnership to Protect and Restore Coastal Water Quality and Habitat

The federation and Wildlife Resources Commission Engineering Division have formed a partnership to reduce stormwater runoff and promote living shorelines at public boating access areas across the coast. Beaufort, the federation and the commission pooled resources to place permeable paving grids at a boating access that was going to be paved. The project led to an agreement to continue working together and have discussed possible projects to incorporate stormwater management strategies.

About the Author

Staff Report

The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.