THE NORTH CAROLINA Coastal Federation is recognized two central North Carolina coast residents at its annual Pelican Awards on August 6 in Beaufort.
Keith Rittmaster, a resident of Beaufort, received an award for his dedication to the research and protection of marine mammals. Laura Price, a Morehead City resident, received an award for her excellence in volunteer contributions to the coast.
“This year’s central coast Pelican Award winners demonstrate the importance of long-term commitment to protecting and restoring the coast. These individuals have contributed countless hours toward making our coast cleaner, more beautiful and more productive,” said Todd Miller, the federation’s executive director.
Rittmaster is the director of the Cape Lookout Studies Program, founder of the Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program and science curator at the NC Maritime Museum. He is also a member of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network and the Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Network.
He dedicates his time to protecting animals such as whales, dolphins and seabirds from the devastating effects of marine debris. The Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program collects old fishing line in recycling bins along the coast.
There are currently 42 bins across the coast, and volunteers have collected over 2,400 miles of old fishing line through this program. A list of bin locations, as well as stories about the problems marine mammals face when getting caught in fishing line, is available on www.capelookoutstudies.org.
Price is a regular volunteer for the federation and can often be found dedicating her time to the federation’s work throughout the central region.
She is a regular volunteer at EarthWise Farm, the federation’s community garden. She can also be found putting down oyster bags to create reefs, planting marsh grass or picking up marine debris at the federation’s many volunteer events.
Price was a teacher for 10 years in Carteret and Jackson counties. Those who have had the opportunity to attend an oyster reef construction event know the “teacher voice” that she uses when encouraging volunteers who place oyster bags.
“As a retired teacher, I knew I wanted to volunteer for an important cause, and the federation appealed to my academic and water loves,” said Price. “The bonus is that all of the staff and volunteers are just super folks who also want to protect the areas we love.”
The Pelican Awards highlights the heartwarming and inspiring stories of the year’s best projects and actions in a fun social setting. Additional recipients include:
- Carlton Campbell, a pioneer in growing marsh grass in large amounts, won this year’s prestigious lifetime achievement award. Campbell’s work made it possible for the federation and other groups to plan and execute large-scale living shoreline restoration projects.
- Jan Harris won a Pelican Award for her advocacy efforts in Sunset Beach and throughout the coast.
- The Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University, directed by Rob Young and assisted by Andy Coburn, won an award for its analysis of the economic impact of inlet development and advocate for sustainable coastal development policies.
- Paul Kutsko won an award for his volunteer efforts with the northeast office. Even when there are no events on the calendar, he stops by the office to help out.
- Aaron McCall, the regional steward for The Nature Conservancy’s office in northeast North Carolina, received his award for his coastal restoration work, both with the conservancy and the federation.
- Total Marine Services in Wanchese was instrumental in the federation’s living shoreline work in the Outer Banks. They also won their award for storing and maintaining the federation’s boats.
- The General Electric Volunteer Program was recognized for more than a decade of work with the federation. Since 2004, more than 1,000 volunteers have helped build oyster reefs and living shorelines.
- The Oak Island Environmental Committee and the Oak Island stormwater monitoring volunteers won a Pelican Award for their work to improve water quality in Oak Island.
- Bruce Holsten, the managing director of a strategic management and political consulting firm, won an award for his guidance in helping to prevent Titan America from building a coal-fired cement plant in New Castle Hayne.
In addition, the federation awarded 31 local governments coast-wide Pelican Awards for passing resolutions against offshore oil drilling or seismic testing. Most of the governments are located on the coast, but a few are based in Orange County.
The local governments are: Atlantic Beach, Bald Head Island, Beaufort, Belville, Carolina Beach, Carolina Shores, Carrboro, Caswell Beach, Cedar Point, Chapel Hill, Dare County, Duck, Emerald Isle, Holden Beach, Holly Ridge, Kill Devil Hills, Kure Beach, Manteo, Morehead City, Nags Head, Oak Island, Ocean Isle, Orange County, Southport, St. James, Sunset Beach, Surf City, Swansboro, Topsail Beach, Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach.
“I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen so many local governments unknowingly band together in one direction like this on non-monetary or state type of revenue issues,” said Beaufort town manager Charlie Burgess in an interview after the event. “It’s great to be a part of it.”
The NC Coastal Federation is a nonprofit membership organization that works to keep the coast of North Carolina a great place to live, work and play. Through a variety of programs and partnerships, the federation provides for clean coastal waters and habitats, advocates to protect the coast and teaches and informs people about the coast and what they can do to protect it.
The federation has offices in Ocean, Wanchese and Wrightsville Beach. To learn more, please visit nccoast.org or call 252-393-8185.