For the second year in a row, the Oconee Democrats raised more than $1,000 for local charities through its Saturday Strolls series.
Participants in the 14 guided walks, held this year from May 1 through July 31 at Harris Shoals Park in Watkinsville, contributed $1,130 to such charities as the Oconee County Cultural Arts Foundation and the state Botanical Garden in Clarke County, according to event organizer Pat Priest.
The stroll leaders designated a charity in advance, and each of those who joined the hour-long walk through the park donated $5.
Top draws were the May 1 stroll led by Brad Sanders, an expert on the Bartram Trail, and the May 8 walk led by Robert Wyatt, an adjunct professor of ecology at the University of Georgia.
Sanders talked about the exploration and writings of naturalist William Bartram, who traveled through Georgia and the south in the 18th century, while Wyatt helped participants learn how to identify trees and shrubs.
The Bartram Trail begins at the Georgia-North Carolina border in northeast Georgia, climbs to the top of Rabun Bald, descends into Warwoman Dell and then parallels the Chattooga River.
The Bartram trail walk raised $140 for the Bartram Trail Conference, while the walk led by Wyatt resulted in $135 for the Oconee Rivers Land Trust.
The stroll leaders led participants through Harris Shoals Park on Experiment Station road and used the natural and man-made features of the park to illustrate the talks. Strolls were nonpartisan and open to the public.
Strollers who joined artist Bob Clements and illustrator Bill Pierson on the July 3 stroll sat at the popular shoals of the creek and sketched after being given hints by Clements and Pierson on techniques.
Lawrence Stueck, an environmental sculptor and art teacher at Athens Academy, used the playground at the park, which he designed and helped build, to illustrate his talk about the role of play and playgrounds in child development and education.
In the summer of 2009, the first year of the program, Oconee Democrats raised more than $1,000 through a series of 13 walks that began at the courthouse in Watkinsville. The first of those strolls was on Aug. 8, and the last was on Oct. 31.
In 2009, walk leaders included Oconee County native and Georgia House member Bob Smith, then Watkinsville Mayor Jim Luken and Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry.
In launching the 2010 series, Priest, a local radio producer and writer, called the strolls a “weekly, hour-long summer camp for adults and families.”
In addition to raising the money for charity, Priest said at the end of the series, “I hope we raised awareness about the natural world.”
The 2010 series included discussions of birds, mushrooms, lichens and mosses, invasive species, native plants, the Oconee watershed and snakes and turtles. One stroll focused on nature photography.
Pictures in the slide show above were contributed by Priest, Wyatt, Chuck Murphy and me. Murphy is a local photographer and photo instructor who led the July 19 stroll.