In 2021, Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation and Chair of the St. Helena Island Community Preservation District and Cultural Protection Overlay District Committees brought together the Gullah/Geechee community of Saint Helena Island and Beaufort County Planning Office professionals to work with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They worked in collaboration to develop a network of green infrastructure projects that will buffer storm surge and mitigate sea level rise impacts while also protecting local food production, historic sites, and cultural traditions. The project highlights the connections between sites and sets clear resilience goals for each location. Community members worked on asset mapping of green infrastructure projects throughout the island. They are now working to solidify action plans and funding sources. Gullah/Geechee Nation leaders are working with the federal, county and state agencies to ensure culturally appropriate adaptation solutions are reflected in plans and policies.
As Queen Quet stated when the EPA provided the initial technical assistance through the “Building Blocks” program, “Working with the building blocks grant team will assist natives of St. Helena Island with sustaining the resiliency that is naturally a part of our Gullah/Geechee cultural heritage. We will use the community engagements to pour that resilient energy and our history into green infrastructure in order to increase the sustainability of our environment and create places in which people can learn more about our Gullah/Geechee culture and how it is inextricably tied to our land. We want our future generations to be able to build on the foundation that we will lay via these building blocks.”
In order to ensure that the next block is placed on the foundation was poured via the Greening Gullah/Geechee Communities Project, the EPA Underground Storage Tanks (UST) team will host a community engagement and educational workshop at the St. Helena Branch Library on St. Helena Island, SC on Saturday, September 10, 2022 beginning at Noon. The EPA UST Region 4 Team will help this historic Gullah/Geechee community understand the value of ensuring that underground storage tanks from old gas stations are removed and the grounds where they were located are remediated and fully restored.
St. Helena Island is one of the many Sea Islands of the Gullah/Geechee Nation and is home to numerous sacred and historical sites that the community wants to protect from sea level rise. The health of the environment is critical given that Gullah/Geechee culture is inextricably tied to the land. Therefore, the Gullah/Geechee Nation‘s leaders and the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition are encouraging people to come out and be a part of the workshop. They look forward to owners of properties that have such tanks attending so that they can help them get the tanks removed at no cost via this collaboration. In order to obtain more information or to register in advance, email GullGeeCo@aol.com.
Almost a decade ago, Gullah/Geechee Nation leaders were invited to an EPA conference in order to do a community engagement training, they are pleased that the on-going collaboration with the agency is showing that the training paid off. They hope the knowledge provided at the workshop will also.