The enchanting tree canopy is one of the most beloved features of St. Simons Island. That, coupled with green spaces, gives the area its signature glow.

With the march of time and ever-increasing property values, the abundant nature could have easily disappear. But that hasn’t happened, thanks to the work of the St. Simons Land Trust. To date, the local nonprofit has preserved more than 1,000 acres of natural spaces for future generations.

But it’s not been an easy task. It has taken the work of countless volunteers who have invested time and energy into preserving the natural beauty of the area. And this year, all of those efforts will be celebrated as the Land Trust marks 20 years of service to the community.

Emily Ellison, president of the organization, is looking forward to what the banner year will bring.

“This is our 20th anniversary, so throughout the whole year we will be celebrating this community effort to come together and preserve and protect St. Simons Island and the Coastal landscape,” Ellison said.

With events sprinkle through the year, there’s a lot to look forward to; that includes the nonprofit’s signature event, its annual oyster roast. The big day is slated for Jan. 18.

Marty Moody, volunteer and oyster roast coordinator, has been working with the organization since 2011. She is excited about this year’s celebration and is inviting the entire community out to Gascoigne Bluff to share in food and fellowship.

“The oysters are being provided by Crabdaddy’s and Bennie’s, with Sea Island Forge doing the roasting. There will also be 52 other restaurants participating at food stations or on the buffet. There will also be a wide variety of beers as well,” Moody said.

Entertainment will be provided by local favorite, saxophonist Michael Hulett. In addition, Ellison notes the evening will also showcase the efforts of volunteers past and present.

“We will have a big screen where will be playing images of community folks and people who have attended the oyster roast over the past 20 years,” she said. “We think people will really enjoy seeing themselves on the big screen.”

Along with the volunteers’ service, Ellison says the Land Trust will also fete the sponsors who made the event possible.

“The Parker Co. is our premier sponsor and they came in even more generously than they have in years passed. But local businesses have really stepped up to support us this year,” she said.

As one would expect of an organization dedicated to conservation, the party will also champion sustainability, opting for re-usable glasses and accessories.

“We are going green as much as we can at this event. We don’t want to fill up trash bags with bottles and Styrofoam cups. So we have these beautiful, stemless wine glasses with the logo on them for attendees to use.

Moody feels that the elements will come together to add up to equal a memorable evening.

“It’s at the largest event on the island. It’s a wonderful evening where like-minded people come together to take care of the place we all love so much,” she said.

Moving forward, Ellison feels that the Land Trust and support for its mission will continue to grow. And they’re planning plenty of opportunities for the community to get involved or learn more.

“We have a number of things happening this year because it is the 20th anniversary. We’re going to be working more with our partners along the coast to highlight all of the research that goes on at Cannon’s Point Preserve,” she said. “We will be putting up more signs and will likely begin a new capital campaign at some point.”

They will also be targeting young families, aiming at getting in involved in preserving the land for generations to come.

“It’s so important to get younger folks involved. We are looking at people in their 20s and 30s and working to engage them. It’s important so that we can continue to protect this area for those who come after us,” Ellison said.

Moody agrees.

“We have a lot of family-oriented events planned with a number of things coming up for those with children. We want to help people understand what is available to them and how much goes into protecting and preserving St. Simons Island,” she said.

Tickets for the St. Simons Island Land Trust’s Oyster Roast are $60 for members and $85 for nonmembers. While they are selling quickly, there are tickets available. To purchase those or for more information, visit www.sslt.org.

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