Support for Continued Development of Thunderbolt Nature Discovery & Media Center

Support for Continued Development of Thunderbolt Nature Discovery & Media Center

December 9, 2019
Petition to
Thunderbolt Town Council
Signatures: 155Next Goal: 200
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Why this petition matters

Started by Savannah Chatham Sustainability Coalition


The problem that we are aiming to solve in Thunderbolt is twofold:  1) Closure of the library has negatively impacted the community; and 2) the Town of Thunderbolt is not utilizing its full potential as a waterfront community for ecotourism and ecological education.  

When Thunderbolt lost its public library two years ago, it lost a vital anchor of its community.  According to the PEW Research Center, "Some 90% of Americans ages 16 and older said that the closing of their local public library would have an impact on their community,  with 63% saying it would have a “major” impact."  Libraries are essential to maintain community connections, and without one, communities are lacking vital resources to help boost the local economy.   According to the American Library Association, "Place-based economic development stresses the importance of offering attractive, functional, and community-based places, such as libraries, in town squares and depressed neighborhoods." 

The second problem we are addressing by this proposal is the lack of access to public ecotourism opportunities in Thunderbolt and offering a solution for another widespread, systemic problem:  "An expanding body of scientific evidence suggests that nature-deficit disorder contributes to a diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, conditions of obesity, and higher rates of emotional and physical illnesses. Research also suggests that the nature-deficit weakens ecological literacy and stewardship of the natural world. These problems are linked more broadly to what health care experts call the “epidemic of inactivity,” and to a devaluing of independent play.  In Chatham County alone, 30.7% of adults are obese, according to U.S. News & World Report.  

Our town not only has an opportunity to provide essential services to our community, but also to make an impact on the vital health and well-being of our greater society as a whole.  


The renovation of the former public library will revitalize the Town of Thunderbolt through increased visitation, exploration, and community collaboration.  Located on Mechanics Avenue, within steps of busy Victory Drive, the 5800-sq. ft. facility is in a prime location for street traffic and visibility.  While not replacing the full functionality of the former library, the new facility will perform many of the same operations while also including aspects that will attract visitors from beyond the community.  In other words, in some ways it will enhance the value to the community, both from a learning/collaborative standpoint and from a revenue-generating/visibility standpoint.  

By offering a new incentive and outlet for nature exploration, the new facility in Thunderbolt will be providing a vital service.  It will foster an appreciation for the local ecosystem, reconnecting both children and adults to nature through interactive discovery. 

The building renovation process will be completed in phases.  Phased renovation allows a building to remain occupied while preparing for project completion.  Phase I of the renovation will provide a Media Center - including bookshelves and computer workstations - and will bring the building into ADA compliance with accessible restrooms available to the public.  According to the Brookings Institution, "Public libraries are a lifeline for the most vulnerable among us.”  Additionally, President Maureen Sullivan of the American Library Association (ALA) states, “Libraries report services for job seekers as the most important public internet service they provide."

Phase II will renovate the remaining building space as a "Shared Space" for local partner displays, e.g, recycled plastic art sculptures from schools or exhibits from local environmental organizations such as the Caretta Research Project or Gray's Reef.  Classes and workshops will also be held, as well as community gatherings.

Phase III embarks on eco-discovery trips, such as kayaking on the Wilmington River and implementing a "Kids in Kayaks" Program based on the Outside Foundation's provided curriculum.  The possibilities are endless for outdoor programs, including Garden Explorer activities across the street at the Forsyth Farmers' Market's garden, "plogging" competitions (picking up trash while exercising), and scavenger hunts within the Thunderbolt waterfront community.  

Phase IV involves fundraising to purchase interactive exhibits focusing on learning about our local ecosystem, ecological history and marine life.  Key features will include a 360-degree, immersive dome theater/planetarium, as well as interactive STEAM and Thunderbolt-focused exhibits, e.g., an exhibit interpreting the origin of Thunderbolt, which was named for the legend of a lightning strike that created a freshwater spring on the Wilmington Bluff, "Water is Life."

Finally, Phase V is the implementation of STEAM programs for students to create sustainable solutions, including renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, waste management, pollution control, etc.  Ideas include hosting STEAM challenges for local schools to participate, and winners are selected for display.  

Through interactive discovery, inside and outside, the new facility will motivate visitors to explore and learn about our natural environment.  It will also contribute a means for children, families, and the community to achieve greater health and well-being through reconnecting with nature. 

Additionally, through the library reinvention, our town not only has an opportunity to provide essential services to our residents, but also to make a difference to our greater society as a whole.  

Support now
Signatures: 155Next Goal: 200
Support now

Decision Makers

  • Thunderbolt Town Council