Meet the “nature nerd” helping guide TheBEND
Chet Morse at TheBEND, where a supporter “yarn bombed” a tree before a March MarshJAM
As site director of ambitious North Charleston urban redevelopment project TheBEND, Chet Morse’s daily tasks range from maintaining the property’s natural habitats to leading free birding and photography walks. We caught up with Chet—boots on the ground at the 20-acre site purchased in 2015 by Susan Pearlstine of The Pearlstine Company—to learn more about the Ashley River-front property and how the community can enjoy it now.
CM: What does TheBEND look like currently and how do you see it evolving?
Chet: Today the site is a beautiful, open, natural green space. The people involved are passionate about what it can be. An ideal development plan would be one that combines a well-designed commercial space with community access to the natural surroundings. We want to serve as a model for responsible growth and think this can be a project that uplifts not only this particular place, but surrounding properties as well.
CM: What public activities are offered at TheBEND?
Chet: On top of small group programs we coordinate with community partners, we offer free bird walks every Tuesday morning, when we commonly see 50-plus species in two hours. We also host biweekly open photography sessions on Thursday evenings, and we‘re excited to be partnering with Lowcountry Stargazers to pilot some free night-sky viewing programs. We have ”open days” planned throughout the summer so people can come ”choose their own adventure.”
Chet totes his spotting telescope while leading weekly birding walks.
CM: What nature walks or programs do you lead?
Chet: All of them! As an outdoor educator by training and life-long nature nerd, one of my favorite aspects of this role is finding creative ways to engage and encourage locals to get outside and interact with the incredible natural resources the Lowcountry offers.
CM: Tell us about MarshJAMs at TheBEND.
Chet: For MarshJAMs, we partner with local organizations whose values and/or mission align with ours—these concerts have a great backyard-party vibe. Our next one is May 3 in conjunction with the City of North Charleston Arts Festival.
CM: What’s your favorite place to play outdoors that isn’t TheBEND?
Chet: Caw Caw Interpretive Center in Ravenel; there are miles of trails, a staff of expert educators, and it’s one of the best places to spot wildlife unique to the Lowcountry.
Lives: West Ashley with his “better half,” Claire, and hound dog, Round-O
Previous gig: He served as an outdoor guide, educator, and naturalist for Charleston County Parks from 2008 to 2017.
Favorite bird: Belted kingfisher, the “punk rocker of the birding world”
Find TheBEND: Visit www.thebendcharleston.com for details on upcoming events.