Green Guides and the Lost City of Magnolia

by Rob Diaz de Villegas
Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV


When researching the Green Guide videos I was producing for EcoAdventures North Florida, I became intrigued by something I saw on the Palmetto Expeditions web site. Cynthia Paulson’s Green Guide brokering business offered tours based on history and archeology. I have an interest in local history and archeology, but I was surprised that it qualified as ecotourism. It turns out that historical excursions are a common form of ecotourism, as it focuses on local culture. And our local culture is often intertwined with the ecology of the area.

The Green Guide program presents an appealing model: cultivating entrepreneurs as business people and as stewards of the environment. This allows a county like Wakulla to exploit their protected lands without having to develop them. Keeping habitats intact also helps our robust local fishing industry. On our tour with Captain James Hodges, we passed Lynn Brothers Seafood, which has been in business for decades, as well as a couple of men fishing out of a small boat, reeling in a pinfish. Commercial and recreational fishing generates over $12 billion for our state annually, and benefits from other industries that share an interest in maintaining healthy ecosystems.

A map showing land plots in Magnolia, Florida.

Captain Hodges is a rarity amongst the Green Guides: a charter boat captain. It’s honestly not what I thought one of these EcoAdventures would look like. That morning, Cynthia had connected us with a couple of other Green Guides for a trip down the Wacissa in canoes. That’s what EcoAdventures had looked like in my head. That afternoon’s excursion with St. Marks Charters expanded what I considered to be ecotourism. There’s a lot of history along the St. Marks. We traveled back to World War II, passing the Higgins Landing Craft factory.  We also went back into the 1800’s, to a place that embodied the spirit of the time, where people struck out and staked their own piece of land and started new towns. Unlike nearby St. Marks, however, the Hamlin brothers’ town of Magnolia only lasted a few decades before fizzling out, unable to compete with St. Marks and the railroad connecting them to larger Tallahassee. The photos I found in the state archive make it look like a little slice of paradise, featuring scenes of people playing croquet under a canopy of moss covered trees.

Pelican in the St. Marks River

This pelican greeted us with wings wide open as we returned to Shields Marina.

As for the aforementioned Wacissa trip, we went in search of Limpkins with Green Guides George Weymouth and Jim Dulock.  George is a bird expert and a an artist.  We’ll see him work on his current painting and talk about the many birds we saw on our canoe trip.  Jim is a canoe guide and has a bird story of his own to share, about a bard owl he befriended on the Wacissa.  That program will air on January 18 at 7:30 PM/ ET.

In this piece, we used the song Wakulla Green, written by Hot Tamale in tribute of the Green Guides.   We used additional music from Kokenovem.

For more information on the Green Guide Certification Program, visit the Tallahassee Community College Wakulla Center page.

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craig reeder December 28, 2011 - 7:50 am

The song “Wakulla Green” by Hot Tamale is available at various locations in Wakulla County and on iTunes. All proceeds go to the scholarship fund for Green Guides of Wakulla County.

Nelle McCall December 28, 2011 - 8:25 pm

Great job Rob! See you soon. Nelle & Rick

James Hodges January 1, 2012 - 9:19 pm

Rob, I can’t thank you enough! But I will try……Thank You!!

Cynthia Paulson January 3, 2012 - 9:05 pm

Rob, this piece is so wonderfully done! I had such fun working with you on this project. Can’t wait to see the next one! Thank you so very much!

WFSU In the Grass, On the Reef April 11, 2012 - 3:39 pm

[…]  We toured the Saint Marks River with Captain Hodges last December.  You can watch that video here. Recommend on Facebook Tweet about it Subscribe to the comments on this […]

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