by Annie Ulichney, Institute Member

Stone Harbor becomes a special home, whether you vacation here for a week, a month, or a lifetime. The anticipation of returning builds as you pull off the Parkway and turn onto Stone Harbor Boulevard. You can’t help but roll the windows down to inhale the salty air of “beach smell” and exhale a sigh of relief (even in the rain). As a family, we have been fortunate to enjoy the smells, sounds, and sights of this beautiful community for our whole lives.

When our three children were young, they all attended The Wetlands Institute’s Summer Nature Program every summer – and they loved it. Our daughters learned all about the various crabs, fish, jellyfish, and birds. While they learned about the ecosystem here, they deepened their connection to nature all around them. They would come home after camp and want to explore the sandbars during low tide in the bay, even showing me where to find the edible “pickle grass.” It was messy and stinky at times but these moments aligned their moral compass. Nature creates a curiosity to know and be more.

Because of our busy cultural lifestyle, we have been cut off from our connection to nature. The Wetlands Institute is the bridge to rekindling our understanding of nature for all ages. To be honest, beyond seeing my kids’ faces light up even now at the mention of “Turtle Camp,” one of my favorite parts of their experience at The Wetlands is when they teach me about the animals they experienced close-up so many years ago. I love that they know where the eyes are on a horseshoe crab when we go to carry a washed-up crab back into the water on our walks at the beach. These small details have turned into an enormous appreciation of and respect for our surroundings here.

Post-pandemic, we have talked about the priceless value of The Wetlands Institute and the importance of conserving this area. I was able to go bird banding with Wetlands Institute researchers and birders this summer, and not only was I amazed and inspired by the experience of holding three-week-old egrets, but I was in awe of this tireless and determined team. Our family has made an intentional commitment to support The Wetlands Institute because we want to make sure that the coming generations can savor this sweet life too. It feels essential to step up and respond to the delicate balance within the nature that surrounds us. Every detail in every day within this coastal community can and does make a difference.