Charlie Chapin honored at Red Hills Spring Dinner

Apr. 19—TALLAHASSEE — Thomasville resident Charlie Chapin was honored by Tall Timbers at the annual Red Hill Spring Dinner Thursday night for his lifetime of dedication to conservation efforts, ensuring the Red Hill region will be accessible for generations to come.

According to Chapin, his roots in conservancy date back to the 1880s, when his grandfather first came to the Red Hills region. He then brought a young Chapin, who fondly recalled gathering dogs, children, guns and luggage to take on the train from New Jersey to Thomasville the day after Christmas.

Chapin spent the next few weeks in the Red Hills region before returning to school up north.

During his time in the Red Hills Region, Chapin witnessed his family's sponsorship of Herbert Stoddard's pioneering Quail Study Investigation, which first linked prescribed fire to maintain a healthy forest ecosystem. It was then that Chapin's conservation ethic was sparked.

Since then, Chapin and his wife Jeanie have been passionate about protecting the Red Hills. Chapin has served on the Tall Timbers Board of Trustees for 12 years and continues to actively serve on the Conservation Easement Review Committee, where he has participated since 1991.

Chapin's most important contribution was in 1998, when he and Jeanie placed their family's property, Elsoma, in a Tall Timbers conversation easement, permanently protecting all 3,706 acres.

"As protected by the easement, the environment that holds the gopher tortoise, the red-cockaded woodpecker, will never be destroyed nor will be it divided into multiple parts," said George Watkins, vice chairman of the Tall Timbers Research Inc. Board of Trustees.

This protection would not be possible if Chapin's heart and soul were not in the land, said Watkins.

"Charlie is a treasure to our community and a real gentleman. Well done Charlie," Watkins said, before welcoming Chapin to the stage to accept a plaque.

Chapin thanked Watkins for his kind words and said he was deeply grateful and honored to be recognized on behalf of Tall Timbers.

Chapin smiled as he told the crowd he was born a lucky kid to spend much of his time in the Red Hills.

"I'm sure that in the early years, my appreciation focused on the smell of fat wood and pine logs in the fireplace, and perhaps the food," he said. "It didn't take long for the aperture to widen and include the animals, domestic and wild, that did and still do occupy a significant place in my life."

Chapin said he learned more about the landscape in his youth and had a general appreciation for it.

"It was only sharpened by my father, aunt, uncle and revered employees who have made Elsoma run all the years," he said. "Higher education came when listening to the real experts, Jim Cox and Herbert Stoddard."

Given his education, Chapin said he felt it was only natural to ensure the thousands of acres at Elsoma and beyond remained pristine for the long term.

"Valuable open landscapes don't remain that way by themselves, as we've seen in New Jersey and Michigan," he said. "Successful conservation takes hard work, but it has been my very good fortune to work alongside the people who put in that hard work at Tall Timbers."

However, it's Chapin's hard work on the Conservation Easement Review Committee that those at Tall Timbers applaud.

A board member since 2005, Chapin has helped oversee 118 conservation easements, according to Tall Timbers Land Conservancy Director Shane Wellendorf. Through their work, thousands of acres are now under conservation easements, and there remains a dedication to continuing these efforts in the future.

"It has simply been my pleasure to have a seat at the table and to watch all of it happen," Chapin said.

Chapin was honored with a plaque as those in attendance gave him a standing ovation.