This award is given in recognition of successful efforts to influence public policy relating to trail planning, trail protection, trail development, or maintenance.
Staci Williams joined American Rivers in 2009 as the Waccamaw River Blue Trail Organizer.
Since that time, she has worked throughout coastal South Carolina to engage communities located along the Waccamaw River to reconnect them with the river through the creation of a blue trail. She has been instrumental in organizing paddle trips, increasing community involvement in river related issues, leading youth outings and educating citizens, local governments and elected officials about the importance of the river as a community asset.
The blue trail will reconnect the communities to this resource, promote outdoor recreation opportunities, be an economic driver for increasing tourism in the region as well as serve as a model for protecting a threatened national resource. The water trail will produce multiple community benefits including: allowing access to an array of scenic landscapes, providing habitat protection for diverse and significant fish and wildlife populations, and preserving traditional uses such as hunting and fishing.
Since beginning to develop the blue trail in 2009, her accomplishments have been numerous – completion of the Waccamaw River Blue Trail Paddle Guide, coordinating the development of a river access point for the City of Conway, and several media events and river videos. She has been the voice in getting the blue trail listed and selected as a priority project in South Carolina as part of the U.S. Department of Interiors America’s Great Outdoors Rivers Initiative.
Recently, American Rivers celebrated the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) acquisition of a tract of land within the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge and adjacent to the Waccamaw River Blue Trail. This key acquisition is important because it lies within the newly proposed Waccamaw NWR expansion boundary and better connects Coastal Carolina University and the City of Conway to the Refuge.
As part of the day’s festivities, Staci coordinated a partnership with Service Over Self, a Georgetown County youth organization, and Conway Kayak Tours to host a community paddle through a scenic stretch of the Waccamaw NWR. “It was really inspiring to be a part of the first paddle trip for many of these teenagers and to hear them talking about the importance of protecting this special river”.
Staci’s passion for the river and promoting it as a recreational resource has been extraordinary. When completed, the Blue Trail will flow over 100 miles through the low country of South Carolina and highlight numerous river access points, camping facilities and scenic vistas as well as interpret the rich history of coastal South Carolina.