Yearly Archives: 2011

We are so excited to announce that Charleston Waterkeeper and luxury Italian jewelry designer Roberto Coin have teamed up to create a charming Waterkeeper pendant!

Last month, Roberto Coin’s boutique shop on King Street celebrated its first year in the Charleston market.  Along with Geiss Jewelers, Roberto Coin selected Charleston Waterkeeper as their partner organization to help celebrate this special occasion.  It was at this anniversary reception that we launched (softly) a collaborative project that had been in the works since this summer.  Charleston Magazine was there to capture the evening.  Click the image below for the full article and more photos from the evening.

Roberto Coin celebrated its first year in Charleston with a reception hosted in partnership with Geiss Jewelers and Charleston Waterkeeper. Photo by Reese Moore, Charleston Magazine.

Without further adieu, we introduce to you, the Charleston Waterkeeper pendant by Roberto Coin…

The pendant is crafted from sterling silver and strung on a silver chain, featuring a chic version of the Charleston Waterkeeper logo on the front. A small diamond sits in place of the fish’s eye on the front side of the pendant.

Roberto Coin’s signature ruby is encrusted on the back side of the pendant. Inspired by ancient Egyptian legend, it was believed that when a ruby touches the skin, it brings long life, health, happiness, and prosperity.

This pendant is particularly significant, because in addition to bringing the aforementioned good fortune, it also helps protect Charleston’s waterways. $50 from every $90 necklace will be directly donated to Charleston Waterkeeper to aid in the protection of the public’s right to clean, fishable, swimmable waterways.

To purchase a Charleston Waterkeeper pendant by Roberto Coin, visit our online store.

With guidance from Charleston Waterkeeper supporters and fly fishing experts, Sandie and Archer Bishop, participants of the November 18th fly fishing workshop on Dewees Island practice their casting skills.

On November 18th, to launch a partnership between Charleston Waterkeeper and the Dewees Island Conservancy, the two organizations hosted a fly fishing workshop on Dewees Island for island residents and guests.  The Dewees Island Conservancy, whose mission is to preserve and protect the natural environment on Dewees Island, will serve as a community partner for Charleston Waterkeeper’s water quality monitoring program, providing local water quality data to our growing pool of information.

All those in attendance had a great time (especially us!), and we were excited to share the story of Waterkeeper with such a passionate group of individuals. The day’s message was simple: enjoyment of our waterways comes hand-in-hand with stewardship of our waterways.

For photos and more details from the event, head on over to Judy Fairchild’s Dewees Island blog where she posted an awesome article about the day.

Unbeknownst to many, Colonial Lake is fed by Cummings Creek, which, once a naturally existing creek, now flows beneath downtown streets by way of a concrete culvert.  Last month’s Great Oyster Point Runoff allowed us the opportunity to draw the connection between the quality of our most beloved waterways and the onslaught of stormwater runoff that pours into the hundreds of stormdrains throughout the city every time it rains.

To best appreciate Cummings Creek’s rich history, one must look back to the 1700s when the majority of the west side of the Charleston peninsula was marshland.  One creek on the west side, Cummings Creek, lead from the Ashley River into the heart of the peninsula – a typical tidal creek, full of life and importance.  According to one historical account of the landscape, “the point formed by the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, and known as Oyster Point, was low and marshy, and cut up by numerous creeks.”  Oysters were so prevalent throughout the landscape that settlers initially called the peninsula Oyster Point.  This is a sign of two things: the role of tidal creeks and wetlands as filters was in full force and the quality of the water was pristine enough not to overload the oyster population’s ability to filter the surrounding waters.  In other words, the entire ecosystem was in balance.

Eventually, by the late 1700s, Broad Street Canal was dredged, and the adjacent marshland was reserved in trust for the City of Charleston.  In 1870, a pond is created at the headwater of Cummings Creek.  There is much stipulation as to whether the creation of the Rutledge Street Pond was for commercial use or merely for easier access to the Ashley River.  Soon, in the 1880s, construction throughout the Colonial Common resulted in an oyster shell walkway and concrete retaining wall around the pond.  The pond, still tidally influenced by Cummings Creek, provided an ideal playground for children and residents alike.  It was not uncommon for paddle boats to fill the waterfront while anglers tested their luck in the pond and along the feeding creek.  In 1881, the Rutledge Street Pond took the name Colonial Lake in honor of the surrounding property, Colonial Common.

At some point in mid-1900s, the majority of Cummings Creek was captured inside a concrete culvert and hidden from site, under what is known today as Canal Street.  Though the water still rises and falls between the Ashley River and Colonial Lake by way of Cummings Creek, the majority of this action goes unnoticed beneath city streets and Moultrie Playground.

Photographs of Cummings Creek, taken facing westward (1. Cummings Creek at Barre Street; 2. Cummings Creek at Barre and Canal Streets; 3. Cummings Creek at Canal and Gadsden Streets).

Today, Cummings Creek is the only entity standing in the way of Colonial Lake becoming a stagnant cesspool, the unfortunate recipient of polluted runoff from the land (i.e. fertilizers, pesticides, oil, gasoline, animal waste, and more).  It maintains flow between the Ashley River and Colonial Lake and serves as the gateway for all polluted runoff, coming from the nearby community.  The flowing water (rising and falling with every cycle of the tide) of covered Cummings Creek can be seen beneath any stormdrain on Canal Street (a very fascinating site to see!).

Intern Si Wofford proudly raises a water sample after monitoring by the culvert flowing into the open portion of Cummings Creek. The outfall culvert at Cummings Creek is one of Charleston Waterkeeper's water quality monitoring sites.

As we further develop our water quality monitoring program, we will be publishing our results online for public benefit.  In today’s built environment, “tidal creek ecosystems are the primary aquatic link between stormwater runoff from the land and estuaries.  Small tidal creeks begin in upland areas and drain into larger creeks forming a network.  The creeks increase in size until they join a tidal river, sound, bay, or harbor that ultimately connect to the coastal ocean.  The upper regions or headwaters of tidal creeks are ‘first responders’ to stormwater runoff and are an important habitat for evaluating the impacts of coastal development on aquatic ecosystems.” (NOAA – “Tidal Creek Habitats”)

It is undeniable, the amount of stress put on a waterway like Cummings Creek.  Between the decreased amount of once naturally existing creek, the impact of siltation, and the harm from stormwater runoff, Cummings Creek is just one of the many vital waterways working in overdrive throughout the Lowcountry, operating to the best of its ability to maintain as much balance as possible.   A simple visit to the Colonial Common will quickly link, for any observant passerby, the often times ambiguous connection between our built environment and the quality of our waterways.

So remember, the next time you’re strolling down a street and walk over a storm drain, take a look beneath your feet and consider the waterway beneath you, recognizing the eventual path polluted stormwater will soon take to the nearest river or mighty harbor.

In an effort to shed light on the importance and varied characteristics of the many waterways throughout the Lowcountry, Charleston Waterkeeper will begin occasionally profiling a different waterway, shedding light on its history, its current state, and the role it plays in our region’s overall ecosystem.

Grant Smith, one of the many honorary judges of the Great Oyster Point Runoff, prepares nearly 30 on-water participants for Poseidon's Parade.

Last month, as part of the Waterkeeper Alliance SPLASH Event Series, Charleston Waterkeeper held the Great Oyster Point Runoff on and around downtown Charleston’s Colonial Lake.  The SPLASH Event Series, presented nationally by Toyota in partnership with national founding sponsor, KEEN, is a national event program that engages local citizens in water-based activities.  Charleston Waterkeeper was the second of the Waterkeeper member programs to host an event, after the Hackensack Riverkeeper‘s River Flotilla held earlier in the fall.

The goal of the Waterkeeper SPLASH Event Series is to encourage the public and clean water enthusiasts nationwide to discover, learn about, and celebrate the many ways to have fun on, in, or by the water.  The Great Oyster Point Runoff was no exception!

“We came to a great realization: a community won’t truly appreciate and care for a waterway – enough to act to protect and improve it – if they haven’t personally enjoyed it!  We want individuals to protect and improve Charleston’s waterways, and the first step to making this happen is to encourage the public to go out and enjoy these amazing resources – even the ones in the heart of downtown Charleston!”

Participants of Charleston Waterkeeper's Great Oyster Point Runoff take to Colonial Lake for a day of celebration.

Throughout the day, over 500 attendees came by the Ashley Avenue side of the Colonial Common to enjoy the day’s festivities.  Between the Strada Cucina and Taco Boy food trucks, local oysters, beer from Palmetto and New Belgium, music from Mark Mandeville & Old Constitution and the South Carolina Broadcasters, SUP and fly fishing workshops, and dozens of educational partners including the SC Aquarium, SUP Cleanup, the Charleston Parks Conservancy, Charleston Community Sailing, and Surfrider Foundation, the Great Oyster Point Runoff had something for everyone!  In case you missed the event, here’s a great slideshow capturing the fun (a big thanks to Kathryn Wagner Photography for putting it together!).

The Great Oyster Point Runoff sought to encourage the public to experience Colonial Lake in a way very few have – at least in the last century! In addition to the on-land activities, the main feature of the Great Oyster Point Runoff was, of course, the water part! The day kicked off with an open paddle where individuals in kayaks, on SUPs, and even in Optis (small sailboats) scattered across the lake, while outfitters from Nature Adventure Outfitters, SUP Safaris, and Flipper Finders provided crafts for willing participants.  We encouraged everyone and anyone to “float a boat” on Colonial Lake! Eventually, the band of judges paraded down Ashley Avenue to announce the start of Poseidon’s Parade.  Onlookers from land watched as 30 boats gracefully made their way around the lake for a two-lap journey.    Shortly thereafter, the exhibition race began, and minutes later, it ended.  The winner of the Great Oyster Point Runoff exhibition race took home the esteemed championship belt.

The Great Oyster Point Runoff council of judges prepares for Poseidon's Parade!

Alex Herlocker took home the Great Oyster Point Runoff Championship Belt for winning the exhibition race. Those lifeguards sure can SUP!

For more photos from the Great Oyster Point Runoff, hop on over to our Facebook event album here, or check out Kathryn Wagner’s album here (if you choose to purchase prints from Kathryn, she will donate 50% of the proceeds to Charleston Waterkeeper!).

We were not only honored to host the second SPLASH event in the nation, but we were also incredibly fortunate to host Waterkeeper Alliance’s Executive Director Marc Yaggi and KEEN’s Care and Community Manager Chris Enlow (a graduate of the College of Charleston!). Both Marc and Chris enjoyed attending the event and are excited about Charleston Waterkeeper’s efforts to protect the public’s right to clean water.

The day was an incredible success! As noted earlier, over 500 people came out for this year’s Great Oyster Point Runoff.  The event provided an opportunity for the Charleston community to celebrate its fundamental right to clean, playable water.  Charleston Waterkeeper also had the opportunity to shed light on the issue of stormwater runoff – arguably the biggest source of degradation to water quality nationwide.  As part of our water quality monitoring program, we published two months of water quality data we had collected throughout Colonial Lake and Cummings Creek.  According to our results, the Colonial Lake watershed’s water quality is within “normal” limits and is suitable to sustain aquatic life. In total, the event raised $2,000, all of which will be used to advance our water quality monitoring program.

For the official release detailing the event’s success, go here.  There was also some great post-event coverage from the Great Oyster Point Runoff.  Check it out below…

We’ve received a lot of interest to do a similar event again next year… We’re sleeping on the idea, and we’ll certainly keep you all posted!
The event would not have been possible without the help and support from our sponsors, volunteers, vendors, educational partners, staff, board members, and all of you who came out to the Great Oyster Point Runoff!  Thank you!

For past blog posts related to the Great Oyster Point Runoff, go here.