By Dorinda Dallmeyer
Cherishing coastal Georgia comes naturally to Dr. Marsha Certain. The daughter of a physician, she grew up in Brunswick. After graduating from the Medical College of Georgia and completing a cardiology fellowship at Emory, her love of coastal Georgia beckoned her home. According to Dr. Certain, “I thrive in places where there’s not a lot of development. While my practice remains in Brunswick, I live on the bluff at Darien where I can see the Altamaha every day.”
Dr. Certain does more than admire the river from a distance. Her first kayak trip was on the Ocmulgee far upriver in the Altamaha watershed. That trip left her wanting more. She’s paddled the Oconee, the other main Altamaha tributary, as well as the dark, tea-colored waters of the Ohoopee near Reidsville. She reels off stretches of water she’s paddled on the Altamaha, relishing river names like “Alligator Congress” — those relics of the days of flatboats, steamboats, and timber rafts. From Darien she can launch on day trips up to Rifle Cut or to circumnavigate Champney Island on the Butler River. “I take any chance I can get to be on the river,” she says. “Fortunately my medical practice allows me to take turns both for work and play.”
She makes time for more than just work and play. As a Nature Conservancy board member, she is delighted with the role that TNC has played in the Altamaha watershed by protecting a river corridor now spanning 189,000 acres. And she is enthusiastic about expanding that protection, to extend as far headward as the South River inside Interstate 285 and to create a corridor to link with protected areas in southwest Georgia.
“We have a host of organizations focused on conservation in Georgia. There’s some overlap but each occupies a different niche. And they collaborate well.” She supports both the Altamaha Riverkeeper and the Satilla Riverkeeper, a river she praises for its own beauty. And on dry land, she’s involved with developing the Coastal Georgia Greenway, a project to create and connect cycling and multi-use trails in the coastal counties from the Florida border all the way to Savannah.
Photo by Scott Coleman
Dr. Certain is pleased by the passage of the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Amendment (GOSA) in November’s election. “We’ve lagged behind other southeastern states in having a dedicated fund for conservation projects. GOSA will provide us with a reliable stream of conservation funds for the next ten years. It is incredibly important for all of Georgia.”
Her motivation for supporting conservation? Posterity. “Several years ago, I went with the Georgia Botanical Society to Lewis Creek. The trip leaders took us way into the interior of the island, to a cypress forest that was too remote to be logged. I was overwhelmed by the magnificence of these old-growth trees, the rich biodiversity surrounding us, and reminded of the resilience of the Altamaha watershed. I want to help protect this legacy for my grandchildren and all who follow them.”
Lead photo contributed by Marcia Certain