What is the Spring Island Trust?

At the very outset of purchasing Spring Island, developers Jim Chaffin, Jim Light and Peter LaMotte created the non-profit Spring Island Trust to insure the preservation and protection of the Island’s environmental and cultural history.

Articles of Incorporation were filed with the state of South Carolina in January of 1990. Property owners contribute to the Trust through a mandatory assessment fee whereby 1.5% of all homesites and 1% of all improved properties are funded to the Spring Island Trust. The Trust owns 1,000 acres of nature preserves on Spring Island, which are protected by deed restrictions, the Mobley Nature Center and the Art Barn, its classroom facility.

During the development phase of Spring Island (1990 to 1999), the Spring Island Trust worked closely with the developers to ensure sound development plans and land management practices, thereby safeguarding the original environmental integrity and cultural heritage of the Island. In 2000 the developers turned governance of Spring Island over to the Spring Island Property Owners’ Association (SIPOA). The Spring Island Trust Board and the SIPOA Board work in partnership together ensure that all of Spring Island’s 3,000 acres is maintained as a residential community within a nature preserve.

The Trust continues to have three major functions:

(1) to manage the Nature Preserves and other open spaces,

(2) to help members and their guests understand how to be effective environmental stewards through its educational programs and

(3) to work with SIPOA committees that are involved with land use and other habitat related issues.

The Trust also promotes effective stewardship by inviting scientists, historians, and artists to the Island for consultation, study and inspiration.

By bringing the ideals of the environmentalist, the developer and the homeowners together in a successful working relationship, the Trust is a model of land stewardship for others to use, and works to keep the environmental integrity of the Island intact for future generations.


Chris Marsh

Executive Director

Chris’s interest in birds goes back to his very early days. He grew up in Raleigh, NC and joined the Raleigh Bird Club when he was 14. As an intern for the North Carolina Museum of Natural History he traveled throughout North Carolina doing bird identification from 1974-1977.

Chris received his Ph.D. in zoology from Oregon State University in 1977 and subsequently traveled throughout the western states studying nature. He became an assistant professor of biology at Brevard College in 1982.

From 1984 to 1998 he served as a professor at Coastal Carolina University, where he taught biology, animal behavior, ornithology and marine ecology. He conducted shorebird surveys with the South Carolina Dept. of Natural Resources and worked as an environmental consultant from 1986-1994.

Chris began to work with Betsy and Jim Chaffin as an environmental consultant in 1993. He also conducted bird workshops for members. In 1998 he left academia to become the first full-time Director of the Spring Island Trust and also became the Director of the LowCountry Institute when it was founded in 1998.

Chris loves working with Spring Island members. He enjoys the great variety in his work and the diversity of nature on Spring Island.

Chris and his wife Barbara have three children.

Tony Mills

Education Director

Tony has been working in the field of environmental education, with emphasis on southeastern animals and plants, for three decades. During his college years and following his graduation from Georgia Southern University in 1985 he worked in a variety of positions as a naturalist in state and national parks and nature centers. He also worked for 20 years as the outreach program coordinator for the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory.

Tony is now the Education Director for the LowCountry Institute. His duties include co-teaching the Master Naturalist Program, conducting educational school programs and teacher workshops and leading field trips for nature groups. Tony writes and hosts the award-winning TV nature program Coastal Kingdom that airs on SCETV, the South Carolina Channel and the County Channel. Although Tony spends a major portion of his time teaching and writing, he continues his extensive field study of plants and animals of the Southeast.

Tony deeply believes in the importance of the work of the LCI and the Trust. The opportunity to work in a community where so many of the members are committed to their role as stewards of the Island and want to make a difference is exciting to him. He also has great respect for the other members of the staff.

Tony is married to Kathryn Madden Mills and has two adult sons.

Lisa Gravil

Lisa Gravil

Executive Assistant

Lisa grew up in Augusta, GA and has lived in the low country since 1976.

Lisa’s work as the Executive Assistant for the Spring Island Trust began in September of 2000. Among her many duties is to insure the smooth operation of the office and the Nature Center. Lisa’s kindness, good humor and enthusiasm are contagious. She is very understanding of members and their needs and is always warm and welcoming to all who come to the Nature Center.

Lisa loves working in such a beautiful community with interesting people and a great staff.

Lisa is married to Paul Gravil, who has participated in the deer management program for over 16 years.

Rachel Walman

Rachel Walman


Rachel came on board in fall 2015. Her primary responsibilities are related to environmental education for the public. These include maintaining the Coastal Kingdom websites, handling all the correspondence with children and teachers, shooting “B roll” for the program, and promoting Coastal Kingdom with the public. She uses her technology skills and experience with handling wildlife to provide logistical support at the Nature Center and for other LCI education programs.

Rachel is a native of Pittsburgh and graduated from Juniata College with a B.S. in environmental science and anthropology. Her college program included coursework in marine science in India.

From 2013-2015 she worked as an educator at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island. Prior to that she worked for four months at the Ruaha Elephant Project in Tanzania where she developed an education curriculum and taught at the rural schools in the area.

Whitfield Marshall

Whitfield Marshall

Habitat Management Technician

Whitfield grew up in Lancaster, SC and has always loved outdoor recreation such as fishing and camping. He graduated from Clemson University in 2012 with a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology and a minor in Parks and Protected Areas Management.

Before coming to Spring Island in September of 2015 Whitfield had a series of interesting experiences with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the South Carolina State Park Service and Clemson University. His work took him to Johnston Atoll, a U. S. unincorporated territory in the Pacific Ocean, the Ten Thousand Islands and Florida Panther National Wildlife Reserves and several South Carolina state parks.

Whitfield works with Landscape Ecologist Karl Ohlandt in the day-to-day management activities of the Spring Island Trust such as prescribed burns, pond monitoring, organizing volunteer days and field and trail management. He is particularly impressed by the Great Salt Pond, which is a healthy fishery that serves as a recreational resource for members and is also aesthetically beautiful. He enjoys the opportunity to do hands-on management and is very interested in the Trust’s Native Plant Project

Kristen Marshall Mattson

Kristen Marshall Mattson

Environmental Educator

Growing up in DeLand, FL in a home on the St. John’s River that backed up to a wildlife refuge led to a life-long love of nature for Kristen Mattson.

Kristen attended Stetson University and received a B.S. degree in environmental science with a minor in biology. She also has a B.A. in Spanish and studied abroad in Madrid, Spain. She earned a master’s degree in interdisciplinary ecology with a focus in botany at the University of Florida.

After completing her graduate degree, Kristen taught biology and zoology for two years at Coastal Carolina Community College in Jacksonville, NC where her husband Christopher was stationed with the USMC.

In 2008, Kristen joined the staff as an Environmental Educator. Her primary duties are to co-instruct the Master Naturalist program, lead educational programs for the public as well for Spring Island members, coordinate citizen science projects, and serve as staff fundraising coordinator. She also writes and hosts Night Skies over Beaufort, short astronomy videos that air on the County Channel.

Of her job, Kristen says “I love teaching people about the environment and inspiring them to have a greater appreciation for our natural surroundings. Every day is different and the Spring Island community is so welcoming.”

Kristen and Chris have two young sons.

Karl Ohlandt

Karl Ohlandt

Landscape Ecologist

Karl is a native of the lowcountry and received his B.S. degree in biology from Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC. He received an associate degree in horticulture from Trident Technical College. Karl received his Master’s degree in landscape architecture, with a focus on landscape management, from the University of Georgia.

Karl began his career by working on a project on the Cooper River that involved establishing proper management practices for rare and endangered species. He then took a position as the Landscape Ecologist at Dewees Island, which he held for 13 years.

In 2006 Karl came to Spring Island for an interview with Chris Marsh for the position of Landscape Ecologist. He remembers being impressed by the community’s obvious respect for the natural environment and feeling as though he was “entering a different realm” as he crossed the bridge.

The restoration and enhancement of land is a particular passion of Karl’s. Members and landscape contractors, the HRB, the Native Plant Project, the Nature Preserves and off-islanders who come to the native plant sales all benefit from Karl’s wisdom and thoughtful guidance. The diversity of his work makes it especially enjoyable for Karl.

According to Karl, “In teaching people how to be good stewards and protect this unique place, the Spring Island Trust makes a difference, and that’s what makes my job so rewarding.”


Craig Leister (Chair)
David Rich (Vice Chair)
Al Gerber (Treasurer)
Gaylynn Golden (Secretary)
Charles Dunlap
Dean Harrigal
Charles Kalmbach
Richard Morawetz
Barry Neal
Carin Sherman
Sally Swift
Betsy Chaffin (Trustee Emeritus)

Spring Island

Spring Island Trust
40 Mobley Oaks Lane
Okatie, SC 29909