Supplied photo courtesy of the North Carolina Coastal Federation
Sarah Gilliam of the North Carolina Coastal Federation presents a Pelican Award to Cliff Cash on Saturday, Aug. 3.
The Duke University Marine Lab was the site of this year’s Pelican Awards on Saturday, Aug. 3. The awards provided a chance for the North Carolina Coastal Federation to highlight local people who, and businesses and organizations that exemplify stewardship of the state’s coastal resources.
Tracy Skrabal, a coastal scientist with NCCF’s Southeast Regional Office, said the environmental organization’s staff nominates the recipients, and then goes through the list to select the winners. This year, southeastern N.C. was honored with three Pelican Awards.
Cliff Cash, the owner of the Wilmington-based Green Coast Recycling, has been fighting the proposed Titan Cement plant in Castle Hayne for more than five years.
“One of my main building blocks when I started was to not just start a recycling business, but to show folks that I genuinely care,” Cash said. “Not only am I going to make sure this recycling gets handled right — if you go through the effort of recycling it’s absolutely going to get to where it needs to go — but to take it one step further and work with local environmental groups.”
In an interview on Aug. 9, Cash recounted how he, along with seven other community activists, first began raising awareness of the issue that would grow into Stop Titan, an umbrella of organizations that has to date collected more than 16,000 petition signatures opposing the controversial plant.
“I think it was a wake-up call for a lot of other people who are environmentally-minded in this community,” he said. “We have to organize and we have to start demanding the kind of future that we think we deserve as a community.”
With 30 years of teaching experience, Sandy Cecelski’s Pelican Award recognized her decades of work spent inspiring students to appreciate the natural environment as deeply as she does. Cecelski recently began working with New Hanover County schools to launch a Marine Science Academy, which prepares high school students for higher education in marine science, including college-level coursework, internships and graduation projects.
“She just never gets tired of getting the kids out in the field and teaching them out of the box,” Skrabal said. “Now with her starting up the new marine science academy, and being a Coastal Federation board member, she just serves in so many ways.”
The other local entity to receive an award was the Winding River Association, a homeowners’ association in Brunswick County. Skrabal explained that two volunteers from the organization took their experience learning hands-on, low-impact development techniques from NCCF staff and expanded it.
“They took what they learned and wrote it into their homeowners’ association ordinances, so it takes that one small experience and amplifies it so that many people are now educated,” she said. “It’s a great example of how one group can take a little information and then turn around and educate hundreds, if not thousands, of people.”