30 Years. 30 Supporters.
South Alabama LandTrust has thrived for 30 years, thanks to hundreds of supporters ranging from casual volunteers to major donors to land owners.
As part of our anniversary celebration, we are telling stories of 30 individuals who have put their stamp on local conservation through their time, talent or treasure. We hope that in reading their stories you will meet an assortment of like-minded people who enjoy the abundance of natural resources—the land, the water, and the wildlife—in south Alabama, and who are doing their part to protect what we have today, and for the tomorrows of those who come behind us.
Hank Miner’s life and livelihood revolve around the water. From his childhood memories, to spending time with his children, to expanding his successful business, water is a consistent and critical element.
“I grew up about a half mile from Fish River,” Miner recalled. “I’ve been up and down that river 10,000 times. I’ve been across Weeks Bay and down Magnolia River 10,000 times.”
Now he spends time with his four children on the water, sharing both inland and offshore adventures. “My kids love to fish,” Hank said. “We go offshores and snapper fish every chance we get.”
After graduating from Auburn, the Fairhope native recalled that he couldn’t wait to get home and remembers a conversation with his father upon his return. “I said, ‘Dad, there is not a chance I’m leaving Fairhope again’.”
Miner purchased Sportsman’s Marine & Outdoor in 1995. The dealership sells and services boats and motors, and just this year, he added a new location in downtown Fairhope where he sells accessories, apparel and battery-operated vehicles.
His business was once again this year a major sponsor of SALT’s annual fundraiser, the Bald Eagle Bash. Miner said his connections to water have fostered an appreciation for the work SALT does to protect local land and, subsequently, the health of the waterways.
“Obviously, there’s a business interest, but we like to be involved with good organizations,” he said. “We’re happy to do it. They do good things and we like to be involved.”
He also appreciates the positive changes his industry has made to lessen its environmental impact. “One of the great things that’s happened in the industry is the advent of the four-stroke motor,” he said, noting they are much more environmentally friendly than their predecessor. A far cry, he recalled, from the motors he used when skiing and tubing on the river in his youth.
Michael and Margaret Neely
Michael and Margaret Neely of Fairhope grew up in Mobile. As one of five siblings, Michael recalls how his father always had him and his siblings on the water – shrimping, crabbing, soft-shelling – from Fowl River to Mobile Bay. You could see clear through to the bottom of the bay, he said.
It was when the Neelys moved back to the area after 25 years in Atlanta that they became aware of what was happening – the bay wasn’t as clear and there were other environmental issues that were not present almost three decades earlier.
Active community volunteers, the Neelys attended a SALT event at the Fish River home of Mac and Gina Walcott in October, 2019, and it was there that they got their inspiration to do more.
“Just hearing their story about what they’d done to preserve their property was the clincher for us,” Michael said. “We left thinking what can we do to better support the work that’s being done by others. The other thing that got us involved was we got to a Delta tour with (local naturalist) Jimbo Meador.”
Margaret said they love the volunteer and outreach opportunities that SALT makes available. They recently attended a tour of SALT’s pitcher plant bog where, as Margaret described, they were able to get up close and see the remarkable plants.
“All of the outreach opportunities that SALT makes available, like the kayak tours, where you’re exposing different people to what we have here, helps us all better understand that if we don’t protect the environment there won’t be anything left for our children and grandchildren,” she said. “It’s just a beautiful area.”
Margaret recalled sitting on a bench overlooking the Bay after her mother passed away. “I thought, it’s amazing how it soothes the soul.”
In addition to supporting SALT, the Neelys are also members of Mobile Baykeeper and the Fairhope Museum, and Margaret volunteers with the Eastern Shore Art Center and the Fairhope Public Library.