story by Cindy Reid photos by Susan DeLoach
The mission of the Port Royal Sound Foundation is as clear as the sparkling waters of the Port Royal Sound: “Together we can make a sound difference to advance the awareness of the Port Royal Sound and its contributions to the environmental, cultural and economic well-being of our area, the region and the Atlantic Ocean.” To further their mission and serve the community, the Foundation “renovated the former Lemon Island Marina to establish an engaging and exciting educational experience. The Maritime Center opened in November, 2014 and features exhibits, local art, history, hands-on learning spaces and other areas where you can learn about and celebrate the Port Royal Sound.”
“The Port Royal Sound Area encompasses all the areas directly affected by the water flowing into Port Royal or Calibouge Sounds. This includes such rivers as the Beaufort, Broad and May, as well as all their tributaries. The Port Royal Sound Area is much larger than many people realize. It extends almost all the way to Interstate 95 and covers most of Beaufort County, as well as portions of Jasper and Hampton counties. Altogether, the Port Royal Sound Area comprises nearly 1,600 square miles of land, marsh and river.”
Beaufort Lifestyle recently caught up with Jody Hayward, the Executive Director of the Port Royal Sound Foundation, to get to know her and learn more about the Maritime Center and the Port Royal Sound.
Jody was raised in Augusta, Georgia and attended Georgia Tech, where she met her husband Marc. She says, “We lived in Atlanta, where Marc and I had gone to school, and we were married in 2000. A few years later we were pregnant and friends we had gone to school with told us about this great town- Beaufort, South Carolina. They essentially recruited us to move to Habersham, and Habersham was gorgeous, and we really saw Beaufort and the Habersham community as the right place to raise our family. Plus, I would be near my mom in Savannah! So, in 2004 we moved to Beaufort. “
Jody says, “our family expanded to two daughters, Ella and Sophie, and in 2007 I got involved as a founder of Riverview Charter School. After the school opened in 2009, I continued to volunteer for several more years. Then I started looking for something new to do and was introduced to Mike Long, who was then Chairman of the Port Royal Sound Foundation. I fell in love with the whole idea of the Port Royal Sound Foundation! From my days at Riverview, I learned how much I enjoyed working for a nonprofit with a great purpose and providing something good for the community. So, I volunteered, held a few different positions and in 2014, I became the Executive Director of the Port Royal Sound Foundation.”
The Maritime Center
“At the Maritime Center we have exhibits, educational programming and fun activities for every age group,” says Jody, “We explore history, art, terrestrial and marine life. We have a dock you can walk out on to enjoy the view of the Port Royal Sound and a 3000 gallon aquarium full of fish from the Sound. You can see blue crab, young alligators and terrapins and learn all about the sharks of the Port Royal Sound. Admission to the Maritime Center is FREE and everyone is welcome. We are here to provide an important service to our community.”
Jody says, “It is amazing how the Maritime Center has grown! It is really exciting. We now have a staff of ‘five and a half’ people, including Alicia Powell, Director of Development, Rachel Jones, Naturalist & Programs Coordinator, Chris Kehrer, Naturalist & Education Coordinator, Jennifer Jenkins, Grants Coordinator, and Sarah Walbert, Communications & Office Coordinator. We also have over 100 volunteers who help us with everything from cleaning fish tanks to giving tours in the Maritime Center – we couldn’t do it all without them!”
She adds, “We serve thousands of children every year, which is our main focus, educating young people about their own community. We have kids who are born here who have never been on water or seen a dolphin until they come here on a school field trip. We are passionate about serving the community by building appreciation and educating people about the Port Royal Sound.”
Jody says they use a “Five Prong Approach” to how they promote the Port Royal Sound. She says, “The five prongs are Ecology, History, Culture, Arts and Recreation. The Port Royal Sound has influenced everything, from the earliest explorers, to the Gullah people, to the food we eat. The Sound really defines the past, present and future of our community. “
When asked what has been the most rewarding aspect of her position, Jody says, “The ability to make a difference. For example, Beaufort County’s plastic bag ban starts in October, so we are working on some new programs and events that will help bring awareness for keeping the Port Royal Sound healthy. The health of our community is dependent on the health of the Sound, so it is important that we educate people on what they can do like using reusable bags, helping with litter pick-ups and being careful about what goes down our drains. We are also working on a plastics sculptural art contest that we hope to announce very soon!”
Jody says, “My favorite place in Beaufort is on the water with my family. As long as the family is happy, I’m happy. We enjoy just riding around on the water. It is super relaxing. Being on the water- that’s why we are here.”
Programs at the Maritime Center
Enjoy diverse and fun opportunities to experience and connect with the Port Royal Sound. There is no admission fee for the Maritime Center. Tours are self-guided with volunteer docents available to answer questions and assist as needed. Some programs and activities do have fees associated with them.
Coming up is their 2nd Annual STEAM Festival on Saturday, August 25th from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm at the Maritime Center. This free family festival is sponsored by Lockheed Martin, the Stanley B. Farbstein Endowment of Coastal Community Foundation and Amazing Event Rentals. The STEAM Festival will provide hands-on, innovative and super-cool activities for families to enjoy. STEAM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math, is an important initiative for educating and preparing today’s’ students for tomorrows’ jobs. The festival will showcase demonstrations, simulations, experiments and hands-on activities by area businesses, organizations and schools that are using STEAM to succeed. Featured vendors will include Lockheed Martin, The Sandbox, Beaufort Memorial Hospital, SC Department of Natural Resources, Coastal Conservation League, Amiri Farris, USCB, Beaufort County School District, South Carolina Aquarium, TCL, Spartina Marine Education Charters and many more!
Groups: When available and scheduled in advanced, tour guides may be arranged to lead your group through the Maritime Center. Please call 843-645-7774 to inquire.
Creature Feedings: Every Saturday at 2pm, come by the Maritime Center to see the animals in action. The Center’s Naturalist will feed and discuss the critters in various tanks. Fun for kids and adults alike!
Story Time: During holidays & summer Blankets, pillows, a story or two and a craft! Story Time is every Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. during the Summer months (June-August) and during holidays. Check their calendar for dates and bring the little ones!
Tuesday Talks: View their calendar for dates. Tuesday Talks are a great way to learn about the area. Local experts come and teach on the animals, ecosystems and issues facing the Port Royal Sound. There is a fee for this program. $8 Person / $5 Students (with ID) / Free 16 & under
Call 843-645-7774 to register
Eco Boat Excursions: View their calendar for dates. There is a fee for this activity. Spend time aboard with Captain Amber for a scientific expedition on the beautiful Chechessee River. $45 Adults / $30 Ages 6 – 11; Tour Time: 1.5-1.75 hours; Call 843-645-7774 to register
Maritime Center Hours: 10am-5pm Tuesday – Saturday
Address: 310 Okatie Highway, Okatie, SC Phone: (843) 645-7774
Administrative Hours: 9am – 5pm Monday – Friday