An old-fashioned oyster roast is one of the many benefits of living on South Carolina’s coast—benefits that Reserve staff want to help those new to the area enjoy safely.

Living on South Carolina’s coasts is living with water: water that’s safe to live near, to swim and play in, to harvest food from. To support coastal communities, the ACE Basin and North Inlet-Winyah Bay Reserves collaborated on an accredited professional development program for real estate agents to help them educate their clients—many of whom are new to coastal areas—on living safely and well with water.

“Clean water is what drives people to want to move here and live here,” says Abi Locatis Prochaska, coastal training program coordinator at the ACE Basin Reserve. “It drives the coastal real estate economy. We wanted to  get real estate agents to better understand that relationship and provide them with resources they could share with their clients.”

The Reserves partnered with other members of the South Carolina Coastal Information Network to develop Coastal Lifestyle for Clean Water, part of a four-course series. Earlier this year, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Reserves took the training online, and nearly 100 real estate agents have completed the course so far.

My local instructors were anything but thrilled to venture into the virtual world,” says Kelly Bramble, director of education at the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors. “The Reserve’s courses allowed us to offer continuing education classes when they were needed the most.”

Volunteers work to keep South Carolina’s beaches clean and safe for all to enjoy.

The training walks realtors through topics like water quality, safe and legal seafood harvesting, and sources of bacteria. The Reserves also consulted on and co-taught other trainings in the series, covering topics like disaster preparedness, flood zones, and flood insurance. These courses empower realtors—and by extension, their clients—by teaching them directly how to use online data tools, like the swimming safety tool, to understand their risk and get information to protect themselves. 

“We’re trying to answer the questions: how do we keep people safe? How do we help them enjoy these resources that are so important?” says Locatis Prochaska. “This is part of our mission as a Reserve. We are collecting the very water quality data that people need access to, and our state partner, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, works to educate people on responsible recreation.”

Focusing on realtors allowed the Reserves to reach a much broader audience. “Coastal South Carolina is a rapidly developing area with many people relocating to the coast for the first time,” says Maeve Snyder, coastal training program coordinator at North Inlet-Winyah Bay Reserve.

“Although we hope that new residents will make time for a visit to their local Reserve, we know that for many newcomers, one of the first points of contact they make will be a real estate agent. This course equips these professionals with knowledge and resources to help their clients understand how to enjoy coastal natural resources without negatively impacting them.”

As with much of the collaboration that takes place across the Reserve system, the program has been strengthened by partnership. “Cross-reserve collaboration was a natural choice for this project,” adds Snyder “Along with other partners, it allowed us to create a consistent curriculum applicable not just in one area but to the whole coast.”

Fishing is an important local form of recreation covered in the Coastal Lifestyle for Clean Water series.

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