If there is one thing that can’t be argued about the Golden Isles, it is that the Isles has some incredible scenery. It is easy to see how Sidney Lanier could find the inspiration for his poem “The Marshes of Glynn.”
That natural beauty brings a lot of people to our area looking to explore it. Whether it is by foot, by bicycle or by boat, there are plenty of places that can provide a sense of wonderment.
A lot of these areas, though, are environmentally sensitive areas. If not done the right way, exploring these areas could lead to trouble for the animals and other species that call the area home. That’s why the University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant program that helps educate local guides is an important step in making sure ecotourism doesn’t have disastrous side effects.
The Coastal Awareness and Responsible Ecotourism program, which is a collaboration with Manomet, Inc., helps ensure that ecotour guides educate visitors about nature and how to protect coastal areas. The CARE program is led by UGA marine educators and provides ecotour companies with the tools to implement best practices for water-based tourism activities.
The program certified its first group of tour guides earlier this year as each took a 16-hour course that focused on recreation use and the potential disturbance of coastal habitats.
Among the biggest challenges is not hurting the habitat of shorebirds. Because of the mild climate along the Georgia coast, it is a popular spot for shorebirds as it supports about 300,000 during the year.
Ecotourism could be a big boon to the Isles’ economy. There is a lot of natural beauty in the Golden Isles just begging to be explored. But it is important that we do so without causing any destruction while we enjoy the scenery.
The only way ecotourism can be sustained is by sustaining the environments that people want to see. It doesn’t do any good to stomp around such precious environments and make them inhospitable to the interesting species that call them home. If that happens, whatever clamor there was for ecotourism will dry up.
The CARE program is an excellent way to help provide guidance to those leading such expeditions and also provides assurances to any adventurers that their guide is experienced and knowledgable. We hope to see this program continue to grow and thrive in the future.