Jody Hayward

Port Royal Sound Foundation
March 2, 2023

It’s all around us.

It’s what defines where we live.

It is described by the Lowcountry Institute as “a marriage of ocean and land” to produce “a marine environment that is one of North America’s overlooked ecological jewels.”

“It” is the Port Royal Sound, covering some 1,600 square miles of marsh, land and river defining much of Beaufort, Hampton and Jasper counties.
It is, says Jody Hayward, executive director of the Port Royal Sound Foundation, “the reason we love the Lowcountry so much.”

And it is the focus of Hayward and her team at the foundation. With roots extending a quarter century, the foundation is committed to preserving the Sound for the “environmental, cultural and economic well-being of our area,” according to its mission statement.

“Through education and hands-on engagement, it’s our job to preserve and protect the amazing Port Royal Sound,” said Hayward.
From offices and an exhibit-packed maritime center and museum on Okatie Highway — roughly midway between Bluffton and Beaufort – the foundation offers an abundant list of programs and initiatives to connect the Sound to Lowcountry life.

The maritime center, opened in November 2014, offers a stunning aquarium and more than 50 exhibits “that speak to the ecology” of the sound, said Hayward. Frequent visitors include schoolchildren, often captivated by the sight of snakes, alligators, turtles and saltwater fish.

Foundation-backed opportunities include summer camps, lectures and trail hiking, naturalist-led kayak tours, access and events for artists and photographers and a citizen-screening program for residents to test and monitor water quality.

And there is more in store.

The foundation is putting finishing touches on an open-air, 10,000-square-foot pavilion to meet demand for field trips, research symposiums and teaching programs consistent with school STEAM programs (science, technology, engineering art and math). Grand opening festivities are scheduled for March 31 and April 1.