The 2013 Alec Little Environmental Award will be presented to Gary Crider, a long-time local environmental volunteer, and to the Hill First Baptist Church Garden Team and UGA professor David Berle, who have been leaders in the burgeoning community garden movement in Athens.
Crider has been active in a number of local environmental organizations, has helped build trails and bridges for hiking and is a leader of the Weed Warriors, a group dedicated to eradicating invasive plants on the Birchmore Trail in Memorial Park.
Community gardens have been springing up at schools and in neighborhoods throughout Clarke County for several years. One of the most successful community gardens was started about five years ago on Pope Street by members of Hill First Baptist Church and community volunteers. The workers cleared a kudzu- and trash-choked ravine and turned the area into a lush garden that provides produce for community residents.
Berle, a UGA horticulturist, has worked with a number of teachers and students and local organizations to create gardens at schools and other locations. He was instrumental in obtaining funding for a Community Garden Network.
The Alec Little Environmental Award was established in 1991 as the first major prize that recognizes individuals and organizations for environmental responsibility in the Athens area. The award is named for the late John A. (Alec) Little, who worked closely with many environmental organizations in Georgia. Thirty-two people and 14 groups have received the award since it was first presented in 1992.
This year’s award will be presented April 19 at the annual GreenFest Awards Ceremony at Flinchum’s Phoenix. The ceremony is part of GreenFest activities in Athens.
Winners of the Alec Little Award are chosen by an advisory board composed of past winners and representatives of the organizations that created the award shortly after Alec Little’s death from a heart attack in 1991.
Crider has served on the board of directors of the Upper Oconee Watershed Network and the Oconee Rivers Audubon Society and has volunteered for more than 30 years for Sandy Creek Nature Center, Sandy Creek Park, Memorial Park, the State Botanical Garden and other organizations.
He has helped build and maintain many hiking and walking trails including Cook’s Trail in the 1980s, and the loop trail and bridge at Lake Chapman at Sandy Creek Park last year.
Work on the Pope Street community garden began in 2008 under the leadership of Karen Witten, a retired doctor who had moved to the neighborhood the previous year, and Tommy Lewis Chester, a homeless man in the neighborhood.
Neighborhood volunteers cleared a ravine near Hill First Baptist Church that was smothered by kudzu and trash, and built a garden that has become a neighborhood showpiece and produces a bounty of vegetables for residents.
Supported by the Hill First Baptist Church Garden Team, with permission to garden granted by land owners Faisal Anwar, Miss Carey Wise and the church, the garden includes a composting site and a “museum” of old objects unearthed by the work.
Berle, a UGA faculty member since 1999, involves his students in helping the Athens community by making service learning an integral component of his teaching program. He and his students have helped many local schools create gardens and have built 15 community gardens in a mobile home park, at the Athens Area Council on Aging and in low-income neighborhoods.
He worked with the Athens Land Trust to obtain federal funding for a Community Garden Network that provides seeds, plants, tools and instruction for gardens. He started Project FOCUS, a partnership between UGA and the Clarke County School District, to teach children about gardening and nutrition.
Previous individual winners of the Alec Little Environmental Award are Nancy Lindbloom, Laurie Fowler, Walter Cook, Joan Gould, Leo Smith Jr., Al Ike, Pam McClure, Jere Bowden, Charles Carter, Bud and Mary Freeman, Sigrid Sanders, Dick Field, Melanie Ruhlman, Smith Wilson, Dan Hope, Larry Dendy, Beth Gavrilles, Bob Barker, Nancy Stangle, Skipper StipeMass, Laura Hall, Russ Page, Elizabeth Little, Maureen O’Brien, Carl Jordan, Suzanne Lindsay, Dorothy, O’Niell, Craig Page, Eric Waggoner and the late Ronnie Lukasiewicz and the late Charles Aguar.
Previous organization winners are Sandy Creek Nature Center, the Broad River Watershed Association, the Community Tree Council, the UGA Environmental Law Association, the Creek Kids, the Oconee Rivers Audubon Society, the Athens Grow Green Coalition, the Upper Oconee Watershed Network, the Athens Land Trust,
BikeAthens, the Oconee River Land Trust, R.E.M., the Newland Family Foundation and the UGA Go Green Alliance.
The late University of Georgia ecologist Eugene Odum received a Lifetime Achievement Award.