For Onslow County native Lena Ritter of Tar Landing, it’s the greatest reward to come from the coastal preservation projects that she has had a part in over the years.
Future generations will know Stump Sound and the waters around Permuda Island as the productive shellfishing waters and prime coastal resource as she always has.
“When I see the children out there in the water, I’m so thankful it is clean water for them to go swimming in and that when they get older they can get oysters in productive shellfish waters,” she said.
Ritter was an integral part of efforts to protect Permuda Island in Stump Sound from development she said would have damaged water quality and to preserve the boat landing at Morris Landing.
Her efforts have earned her a Lifetime Achievement Award from the N.C. Coastal Federation. The award was presented recently at the Coastal Federation’s annual Pelican Awards ceremony.
Ritter, a former Coastal Federation board president, said it is an honor to receive the award but it is not her own.
“I very humbled to receive the award,” she said. “My name is on it but it represents the work of a huge number of people,” she said.
The Permuda Island effort, she noted, took five years and the dedication and commitment of many people to see it through. Permuda Island is now part of the state’s coastal reserve system.
Ritter, a third-generation fisher, organized local fishermen and families in the early 1980s to stop plans for a marina and condo project on the 50-acre island.
“That kind of development would have closed shellfishing waters. It would have damaged everything,” she said.
Ritter said she had already seen poor water quality impact local waterways like King’s Creek. The Permuda Island efforts brought wider attention to water quality issues.
“It was the beginning of being a big issue,” Ritter said. “There’s so much more development now than there was then.”
More recently, Ritter was at the center of work to protect public access at Morris Landing, a boat landing near Holly Ridge that has been used by the community for generations.
She worked with the state and Coastal Federation on the project, and the federation went on to acquire the 52-acre site that now serves as a waterfront park, with boat docks and pier, as well as a place to stockpile oyster shells to be returned to the water as habitat for more oysters to grow. The recycled oyster shells are stored and then picked up by the N.C. Marine Fisheries barges for the oyster restoration programs.
“There are a lot of good things happening there,” Ritter said of the Morris Landing site.