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The Local Life: Lowcountry's natural beauty rivals others

I am sure it will not surprise Lowcountry locals that another newcomer already has been seduced by the natural beauty of this unique region. The abundance of waterways and forest stands fosters a way of life that seems to touch the most natural of elements. For better or worse, I now have an outlet to let everyone know just how I feel.

This periodic column will allow me, as the new South Coast Director for The Coastal Conservation League, to describe my observations of the area while also introducing our organization's ongoing work to promote and protect nature and our communities. I hope to provide a unique perspective, for I am more than just a new arrival. I come from the other side of the planet: Australia, the driest continent on Earth.

As perhaps any newcomer, I am drawn to make comparisons between my new home and other places I've lived. For example, despite being swathed in green, the Lowcountry reminds me of some of the tea tree-lined streams flowing through the Australian bush. I've also been fortunate to travel and work in Europe, Asia and Africa -- all of which have their stunning examples of landscape.

But the Lowcountry's natural beauty, combined with its watery imprint, rivals the natural beauty of any of these continents. It has a warmth all its own. Luckily, I have the added benefit of learning why, thanks to my enrollment in a Master Naturalists course. I already know why Spanish moss does not have bugs when high above the ground and how the design of South Carolina's coast brings fresh water tidal marshes and huge tidal variations.

I also have the remit to explore, sometimes with my young son Ben -- a 15-month-old South Carolina native. I have glided up one river to understand its headwaters and the footprint of its watershed, and cracked crabs on the banks of another at dusk. I have driven more than 4,000 miles to understand the current state of developments amid the timeless rural character of Jasper County. And I have dined on delicious local produce under the stars.

I have been warmly welcomed and intend to reciprocate with hard work and the application of my prior experience in strategic planning for transportation, ports, industrial parks and "smart growth" development. I look forward to combining my experience with local knowledge and a sense of purpose and with what I call a generational mind-set.

Now we need to get on with our work. I hope this column will form the basis of a regular conversation with you about the various projects and issues we are addressing: from the Savannah River dredging to saving the May River; from sustainable local agriculture to form-based codes, "smart growth" and the implementation of transfer of development rights schemes.

I will keep the writing light. My aim is not to tell you a slew of factoids and mindless data. Rather I will bring you along on my own Lowcountry journey, pointing out the highs and lows as we seek to balance our south coast communities with nature for the most important goal of all: our children's future.

Steven Eames is the south coast director for the Coastal Conservation League.

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