The mother-daughter team of Mary Stuart Gilliam and Catharine Gilliam, members of the Blue Ridge Garden Club, was awarded the de Lacy Gray Memorial Medal for Conservation at the Garden Club of Virginia’s Annual Meeting in Richmond.
The Gilliam family is synonymous with conservation in Rockbridge County. When Col. Bates McCluer "Mac" Gilliam, Mary Stuart's husband, died recently, the Rockbridge Area Conservation Council paid tribute to him as an early member and past president. Mary Stuart has worked behind the scenes to promote the conservation and wise development of the natural resources of her beloved Rockbridge County. Son Jay currently serves as the chair of the Natural Bridge Soil and Water Conservation District board of directors. Catharine, with two GCV colleagues, received a 2008 award from the Virginia Conservation Network for her volunteer excellence in preserving Virginia's environmental citizen boards. As the Virginia Senior Program Manager of the National Parks Conservation Association, Catharine worked tirelessly for the commonwealth as a conservation advocate on such issues as threats from adjacent development, conservation planning, air quality, community partnerships and planning, climate change, mercury pollution and energy policy. She has taken on such giants as Wal-mart and has appeared on or been quoted in CNN, NPR, The Washington Post, as well as local newspapers and radio stations.
In February 2009 the Boy Scouts of America announced their plans to move the
National Scout Jamboree, with its more than 240,000 scouts, to Goshen in Rockbridge County. At risk was Goshen Pass, a Virginia State Natural Area Preserve treasured for its scenic beauty, rare plants and wildlife, recreational adventures and history. The Gilliams helped activate the Friends of the Maury River, a grassroots group opposed to the Boy Scout proposal. At a called meeting of the Blue Ridge Garden Club, Mary Stuart outlined past threats to Goshen Pass, the history of the involvement of our club, and the immediate need for our club to adopt a resolution to oppose the National Jamboree proposal. The Garden Club of Virginia, with its long history of preserving Goshen Pass, adopted its own resolution and wrote the governor, asking for adequate analysis of the environmental impact.
"Save Goshen Pass" - the battle cry and Web site were largely the brainchild of the Gilliams. In a mere five months, the Gilliams helped to galvanize citizens of Rockbridge County and the Commonwealth of Virginia to stop the proposed scout jamboree in Goshen. Catharine's conservation expertise and network and her legal skills as an attorney were invaluable. Mary Stuart was behind her daughter every step of the way, attending community meetings and designing T-shirts. Thanks to the Gilliams' leadership, the Garden Club of Virginia has protected Goshen Pass yet again.