When Life Gives You Gators, Make Gatorade

gatorTrue story: In Leon County, Florida, social distance is measured by alligators. Local leaders launched a campaign reminding people to maintain a distance of at least one alligator between each other. For residents of the Panhandle, this is an easy visualization for six feet. In other parts of the country, we might say: stay a sofa, a mattress, or a car’s length away.

But in Florida – and, right here in Wilmington, NC – it doesn’t take much to visualize a gator’s length. We have regular gator sightings on the Carolina coast. In fact, last summer, traffic stopped on one of our city’s busiest roads when an alligator decided to take a morning stroll.

One longtime habitat for our local alligators is Greenfield Lake. Greenfield Lake sits very close to the Cape Fear River, and there is literally a tunnel under the roads (Burnett Boulevard and Carolina Beach Road) that connect the two bodies of water.  Alligators usually use the tunnel to cross back and forth; but, sometimes they prefer streets and traffic lights!

gatorThe presence of alligators doesn’t deter humans from visiting Greenfield Lake and Park – on the contrary! With 250 acres featuring playgrounds, tennis courts, a skateboard park, an outdoor amphitheater, boat rentals, picnic areas, and walking trails, the space is regularly enjoyed by thousands upon thousands of area residents and visiting tourists each year. The location is also a darling of film and TV crews – Swamp Thing, Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill are just a few of the productions that have used the location.

We all know that 2020 brought us an avalanche of lemons. But for families trying to make lemonade out of this horrible pandemic, outdoor spaces like Greenfield Lake have been a saving grace. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. For years, the lake, which sits smack dab in the middle of an urban setting, has been on the state’s list of impaired and threatened waters. And recently, Cape Fear River Watch, a nonprofit founded by a group of local citizens concerned about protecting and improving the water quality of our region, began an initiative to reduce pollution and nutrient loading into the lake.

Our company’s theme this year is “Live Your Legacy”, and prior to COVID’s rude interruption, I was challenging the team (as Chief Insti-Gator) to find ways we could live our legacy within our community. We’ve seen each other daily via Zoom, and we even conduct a weekly happy hour for socializing, but our team members hadn’t been together in person since prior to the lockdown.

Last week, we decided it was time to don our masks, get outdoors, and do some good at gator’s length! We spent Saturday morning cleaning up one of the most highly trafficked areas of the park. It felt great to see one another (from the mask up), to socialize in person, and to help our fellow neighbors.


As for the alligators, they thought we were all plain crazy. Saturday’s temperature was 93 degrees with 51% humidity. It was hot out there, and the reptiles stayed away from scorching sidewalks where we worked. In fact, I think I overhead one alligator talking to a friend right near the lake’s shoreline. Overheated and desperate to submerge his body in the cool waters, he implored his fellow gator: “Please move – I need to get bayou!”

Fuel for thought,
~ Bob