Continuing our series focused on the contributions of Black Americans, Latin Americans, Native Americans, and other historically under-recognized groups to conservation and environmental sciences, this month we are spotlighting local environmental hero Gloria McNair.
Gloria is the Community Engagement Coordinator for Groundwork Jacksonville, the city’s primary nonprofit organization specifically created to clean and redevelop Jacksonville’s Emerald Trail and convert contaminated land into parks, playgrounds, trails, and other public greenspace. Her role is to engage Jacksonville citizens, especially residents from historically underserved urban neighborhoods, in visioning, advocating for, and shaping Groundwork projects such as the restoration of McCoy’s Creek and building the Emerald Trail. She identifies and meets with leaders and stakeholders to share information, gain support, and learn the needs of the communities impacted by Groundwork Jacksonville initiatives.
She is also the manager of Groundwork Jacksonville's Community Restoration Environmental Stewardship Training (CREST) initiative. CREST participants are residents or stakeholders in Jacksonville's North Riverside and Brooklyn neighborhoods, and the program pairs youths and adults in mentoring relationships. In addition, there is a job training element; currently, five of the CREST apprentices have been trained as water monitoring technicians.
Working with Groundwork Jacksonville brought back memories of her rural upbringing when she absolutely loved nature, and she is concerned because today’s youth are missing out on the wonders of the outdoors and the natural world. She is most passionate about habitat restoration and conservation for people and wildlife, especially our birds. The greatest benefit she has received from working from home in recent months is being able to take breaks to walk outside and observe the hawks, herons, egrets, and turtles around her lake.
Gloria loves and believes in the benefits of the projects of Groundwork Jacksonville. She is looking forward to seeing the first mile of the Emerald Trail become a reality and knowing that she played a significant role in achieving that project. Another long-term goal is seeing the McCoy’s Creek Restoration Project completed and enjoyed by the neighborhood.
Duval Audubon had the pleasure of working with Gloria and the CREST participants last year. We presented a "Birdwatching for Beginners" program for the group and hosted a bird walk around McCoy’s Creek. We plan to continue to provide educational programs and bird walks to the CREST volunteers when our outdoor activities resume.
Thank you for your hard work and dedication, Gloria!