I first discovered St. Marys, Georgia, through a Google search. At the time I was living in an area near East St. Louis and was horrified by the crime rate, the damp, cold winters and having to lock my door for the first time in my life. One evening I entered “small coastal cities in Georgia” and came across St. Marys, the second oldest continuously inhabited city in the United States. It looked and sounded extraordinary.
Built on the banks of the St. Marys River, surrounded by salt marsh and offering the only access to the breathtaking Cumberland Island National Seashore – the largest of Georgia’s barrier islands – St. Marys appeared to be idyllic.
One quick trip down to reconnoitre and the decision was made: we sold the house in Illinois, packed up and moved within two months. In my four years here I have never regretted that choice.
Change can be slow in coming, and when I arrived I was shocked to find that there was no curbside recycling program. Thus was born the St. Marys EarthKeepers, Inc. and now the recycling program has a city-wide compliance rate of twice that of the national average, junior EarthKeepers in all of the schools and a large and growing membership.
Today I passed by the lovely Riverview Hotel on the harbor. Built in 1916, the hotel has been owned and operated by the Brandon family since the 1920’s. It recently underwent a massive update: floors restored to their original lustre, eco-friendly products, environmentally-savvy fixtures and plumbing and more.
Now the venerable Riverview Hotel is to be the first hotel in Georgia with solar-assisted air conditioning. I spoke with the gentlemen of Sedna Aire Americas and Energy Specialty Source and they informed me that it is estimated that the solar devices will produce up to 50% of the energy required to air condition the hotel.
With the field of eco-tourism leading the way in Georgia, the Brandons made a wise and economically-rewarding choice when they decided to commit themselves to “going green”. If this small town and this old building can take such a massive step into a more sustainable future then it is doable for us all.
Unlike many bloggers, I do not advertise on this site. These are my observations and if any chose to view them as an endorsement, feel free to do so. Consider the tourism numbers in Georgia:
•$20.8 billion in direct expenditures
•$6.3 billion in resident wages
•$1.557 billion state and local tax revenue
That is a very big pie and eco-tourism is becoming a larger and larger portion of it. St. Marys is uniquely situated to take full advantage of that largess.