So when the Waccamaw Riverkeeper program was just getting started, he said he briefly considered applying for the job as riverkeeper.
That idea didn’t last long, he said Saturday, during the 2013 Waccamaw Conference, but his interest in the river and the work of the Riverkeeper organization has not waned.
That’s one of the reasons that Stevens was named Volunteer of the Year by Riverkeeper Christine Ellis.
She said she wanted to keep the honor a secret, but she realized that if Stevens didn’t know about the award, he likely would have skipped the event.
“If I need something done, I know that I can count on Dale,” Ellis said in presenting the award. “But the only way I could get him here was to tell him that there was something only he could do.”
There is a love of the river that Stevens puts forth.
He regularly picks up trash from the water and the riverbanks, and he says it’s exciting to see his efforts – and those of other Riverkeeper volunteers – pay off.
“The river is cleaner now. There’s less trash. People are paying attention and talking about the river,” he said.
While he was the main honoree, he said he really hasn’t done much more than others.
And Ellis agreed – sort of.
“In the past, the award went to an individual or organization for the work they’ve done in the past year. But with Dale, it’s the work he’s done since the beginning. He is always here and he truly cares about the river.”
Stevens, Ellis and about 40 groups and individuals who care about the river and its environs, came together on Saturday for the annual conference to learn what makes the Waccamaw distinctive and how to keep it that way.
They got an update on the state of the water quality in the region from Dr. Susan Libes, director of the Waccamaw Watershed Academy at Coastal Carolina University; a look into the past with Jenna Hill’s presentation on the ice that once was evident along the South Carolina coast; and a warning of what is yet to come from Jessica Whitehead.
Hill is an assistant professor in CCU’s marine science program and Whitehead is a regional climate extension specialist for NC/SC Sea Grant.
A second, concurrent track included a presentation on the effect of plastics on the creatures that inhabit the world’s and the region’s waterways by author and Plastic-free Pawleys founder Goffinet McLaren.
Karen Fuss, an environmental educator at CCU, discussed ways to promote and encourage the public to get involved in the future of the area by encouraging low-impact development.
Ellis spoke on building our future sustainably.
The groups came together for Julinna Oxley’s discussion of environmental ethics.
“It’s exciting to see people who care about the river,” said Benjamin Thepaut, a student at CCU, holding down the fort at his group’s booth.
By Anita Crone
For the Times