Mom, Outdoorswoman, Advocate, Volunteer and River Warden
When deciding on a career, you’re often told to figure out what you love, and find how to make a living doing it. Local mom, Sanna Moravek, has made her passion for nature also her career. Sanna is mother to 9 year old daughter, C.J., Deputy Director for Chattahoochee River Warden and the founder of WILD (Women’s Initiative for Learning and Discovery).
Originally from California, Sanna moved to the Columbus area in 2013, where she became a Whitewater kayaking instructor. She decided to make Columbus her home after leaving for a brief time and realizing the Chattahoochee Valley was home.
“The local businesses in the area, especially on Broadway, bring so much color to Columbus,” she continues, “after tasting craft beers at Nonic, you can take in a show at the Springer, or rent a bike from Rides on Bikes and explore downtown.”
The year-round warm weather was also a plus for Sanna, “the heat is just another reason to get in the water, and since it doesn’t get very cold, December is the perfect time for hiking areas like Providence Canyon State Park.”
Sanna has always been an outdoorsy person, growing up in the west near some of the most beautiful national parks our country has to offer, she’s hiked the breathtaking Sierra Nevadas the Appalachian trail in Georgia and Maryland. The environment and preserving the beauty of our earth has always been a passion for Sanna. She’s engulfed all aspects of her life in nature: her family, home, career, and hobbies.
Leave No Trace
Growing up, Sanna’s mother always had a garden. “While other kids were bringing gushers and fruit roll-ups into school, I had dehydrated strawberries,” she explains.
“I was brought up to leave as small of a footprint as possible, we had a rabbit growing up, my mother would take the fur to a neighbor who would spin it into yarn, and we would knit hats.” Sanna continues, “If we wanted cobbler, we were handed the colander to go out and pick the blueberries.”
Sanna also taught her daughter, C.J., a student at St. Luke, at a young age to leave nature in nature for others to enjoy, and to minimize their footprint on earth with simple changes, such as limiting the use of plastic bags, reusing glass containers, and buying from local markets. “C.J. knows plastic bags are a big no, no. If we don’t have a tote, she’s the first to ask for paper bags.”
Sanna has raised her daughter with the same love of nature. It’s no wonder, considering baby C.J. climbed trails strapped to her mom’s back before she could walk and paddled the river before age one sitting between her mom’s legs. C.J.’s love for nature may even surpass her mother’s. She’s earned the title of the “Official Chattahoochee Mermaid,” spending most of her days on the river with her mom.
The Chattahoochee River Warden
“When I first moved to Columbus, the first thing I did was search out the area, that’s when I came upon Uchee Creek. We put our boats in and experienced a beautiful, sun-soaked paddle.” Sanna relived the moment when she discovered her love for the Chattahoochee River.
…And the rest is history.
So the question is: what is a River Warden? It may sound like the river police, but really, Sanna and her colleagues are the guardians of the river and nearby watersheds, all the way to the Florida state line. She spends her days not only in Columbus at the ‘hooch’ but also all the way down to areas of Eufaula. The river wardens monitor 30 different areas with regular tests on water quality. Did you know how clean our Chattahoochee River actually is?
According to Sanna, it has a glistening health report. One of the weekly tests performed on the Chattahoochee River is for E-coli, “the baseline for safe water is under 235 parts per million, the ‘hooch’ usually tests in the single digits.” Sanna continues, “it’s 99.99% amazingly clean.” The removal of the dam and the whitewater rafting course has even improved the quality of the water in the ‘hooch’ by increasing water flow.
The river warden also monitors wildlife and greenery in the area. Currently, they’re working closely with Georgia Power and Florida State to eradicate hydrilla, an invasive aquatic weed, from the local watersheds. They’re also monitoring local bald eagles and ospreys in the area; the wildlife in the Chattahoochee Valley is thriving.
Another vital part of the River Warden’s job is to educate the local community on ways to preserve our area for future generations. The river warden, in partnership with other organizations such as Chattahoochee SCUBA, CSU, and Auburn University, organizes clean ups of the river and trails. Sanna has always advocated “leave no trace” in the workplace and at home.
With her knowledge and access to local outdoors activities and activism expanding, she desired a way for a broader audience of women to reap the benefits of outdoor activity that she was experiencing, such as fitness, comradery, and making a difference for the health of our environment, but without limitations due to knowledge, finances or equipment. Through this idea of a local outdoor program for women, the Women’s Initiative for Learning and Discovery (WILD) was born.
Bringing Women Into WILD
Women’s Initiative for Learning and Discovery (WILD) is an organization inviting women to come together and experience nature. WILD is for all types of women: for ladies in a new area during their husband’s deployment looking for a hobby, to those who have outdoor skills but are trying to connect with others and discover the Chattahoochee Valley.
“WILD is really about getting women outdoors and connected with one another. We provide an encouraging environment to teach hiking, camping, kayaking,” Sanna explains. “It’s for all ages, too, the youngest member being a 13 year who attends with her mother, all the way to a 72-year-old woman.”
WILD teaches the very basics of outdoor exploring through clinics, everything from how to hold a kayak to water purification. Clinics are held at Outside World twice a month on Wednesday nights, all clinics are free. WILD also provides affordable rentals and loaners in partnership with Outside World.
WILD takes the skills learned in clinics into nature, offering group hikes on Coosa Backcountry trail to their upcoming paddle trip to see monkeys (yes, monkeys) and gators at the Silver River in Florida.
“The community really embraces one another, whether it’s lending gear, or answering female based questions like, ‘what if I’m on my period, will I attract a bear when we’re camping?’” said Sanna. “The best reward of WILD is taking a woman on her first hike and watching her reaction as she reaches the top. Just knowing, they did it.” The accomplishment never gets old.
To learn more about WILD, visit their website at https://wildoutdoorlearning.org/. To follow the latest WILD journeys, check out their Instagram @wild_columbus
To keep up with the latest news from the Chattahoochee River Warden, visit their website at http://www.chattahoocheeriverwarden.org/ or follow them on Instagram @Chattahoochee_Riverwarden