A legend in life spurs legacy of conservation


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Conservationists Vince Lamb, Beth Blackford and Ivan Green meet at the Viera Voice offices to plan the annual Charlie Corbeil Conservation Awards dinner Thursday, April 9 at Heritage Isle Clubhouse Ballroom.

To hear his friends, family and fellow ecotourism experts talk, you would think Charlie Corbeil walked on water in life. In truth, he used a kayak.

The second annual Charlie Corbeil Conservation Awards dinner will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 9 at the Heritage Isle Ballroom in west Viera, within sight of the Viera Wetlands flora and fauna he loved, and on the eve of the Viera Wetlands Nature Festival that he and fellow volunteers founded, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 11.

“Charlie is that rare kind of guy that everybody who knew him loved deeply, that no one had an unkind word for,” said Vince Lamb, co-founder of conservation charity Preserve Brevard, which is co-hosting the event with presenter Viera Voice, sister publication of the Charlie Corbeil Birding Guide.

“There wasn’t anybody who knew more about finding great photographic subjects in the Viera Wetlands, or from the St. Johns River to the beaches and beyond,” said Lamb, fellow Florida Master Naturalist and lauded nature photographer. “He was always happy to teach anyone who wanted to learn more about nature or photography, for as long as they wanted.”

Event keynote speaker will be renowned Florida springs conservationist Rick Kilby, author of “Finding the Fountain of Youth: Ponce de Leon and Florida’s Magical Waters.”

Corbeil was the perfect ambassador for conservation and could appeal to anyone about the value of stewarding the environment, said fellow wetlands volunteer Ivan Green, Master Florida Naturalist conservation awards committee member.

Committee members seek to fill a void by having this be an annual event whose only purpose is to acknowledge individuals on the Space Coast for their greatness in conservation. 

“This is a nonprofit effort with no other mission, we simply want to make it a mark of pride to have won ‘a Charlie,’ for this event to be known in conservation circles as ‘the Charlies,’ like the Emmys or the Grammys. We want Charlie’s life to continue to inspire greatness in others.”

Awards are given to talented volunteers like Corbeil, and also to key nonprofit leaders and agency staff who have excelled beyond the expectations of their position.

“We’re talking about some real game changers, and there are a lot of people who have done some amazing work in the environment, including businesses that have gone beyond what the law requires and can lead the way for others to do the same,” said Beth Blackford, awards committee member and board member for the Indian River Lagoon National Scenic Byway Coalition.

Deadline for nominee submissions is 5 p.m. Friday, April 3. Email the name and reasons for qualifications to vince@vincelamb.com.

Corbeil and his wife, Charlotte, co-wrote a column called Parting Shot for Viera Voice to accompany his photos. She recently resumed the column after Corbeil’s November 2013 death. It is now called Charlotte’s Web-Spinning Tales and she invites budding photographers to supply the shots.

In Charlie’s memory, Charlotte will sponsor a children’s photography, art and writing contest with more than $1,000 in cash prizes. Top submissions will be displayed at Heritage Isle Clubhouse.

Tickets to the awards dinner are $35 in advance. To purchase tickets or for more information about the youth photography, art and writing contest, go to thecharlieawards.org