Bonny Putney: Champion of all things water
Great article on Lake Lanier Association Board Member, Bonny Putney, in the August 2014 issue of Lakeside News by Pam Keene.
It’s difficult to find Bonny Putney at home these days. Between her dedication to keeping Georgia’s waterways clean to her love of the water and paddling, she spends much of her time on the road – er, water – across the state and in the Southeast. “When I found Lake Lanier in the early ’80s, there was really almost no one living on it,” said the Chicago native. “Here was this beautiful Lake Lanier and I just had to stay.”
Putney had transferred to Georgia to work for her father’s hazardous-waste disposal business, which she did until 2000. She moved into the Lanier Beach South condominiums on the south side of the lake and spent her free time getting to know the lake. Along the way, she met and married attorney Paul Putney and the two of them built a home on property that has been in the Putney family since the early 1960s. Paul had grown up on Lanier and the two shared their love of water and the environment. The couple continues to get out on the lake all year long for fun – skiing, boating and visiting with friends.
They’ve dubbed their home “Putney Island” and it’s the location of frequent get-togethers around the fire pit and surrounding area that’s decorated with numerous whimsical found and recycled objects, including old doors, parts of abandoned boats, kayaks, canoes and even a chandelier made from bottles retrieved from various clean-ups. Bonny, who also enjoys being an artist for herself and her friends, maintains an art studio on the property where she creates mermaids and other sea creature sculptures bedecked with beads, glass and bottle caps.
“It’s amazing the things we’ve been able to find on our clean-ups,” she said. “Especially when the lake was down 20 feet a couple of years ago, there were all kinds of treasures, in addition to the trash that we removed from the lake and the shoreline.”
Putney’s dedication to preserving the environment led her to a stint in the early 21st century by serving on the board of directors of the Lake Lanier Association. During that time, she worked closely with then-president Jackie Joseph and eventually with then-executive director Vickie Barnhorst to expand the group’s Shore Sweep annual lake clean-up that’s held each fall. “Bonny became known around the lake as the ‘trash lady,’ ” Barnhorst recalled. “No one had more enthusiasm about Shore Sweep or could make any event really fun for everyone who participated. Between her organizational skills and her energy, Shore Sweep really thrived while she was on the board.”
After rotating off the Lake Lanier Association board nearly 10 years ago, Putney has further spread her wings on the environmental front, at first volunteering for the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, then working for the organization for six years. She’s also logged many hours working on the boards of Rivers Alive, Georgia River Network, Friends of Gainesville Parks, and Hall County Green Alliance. During the drought, she championed the rain-barrel cause, teaching numerous classes about water conservation.
Putney rejoined the board of the Lake Lanier Association this year and works closely with Executive Director Joanna Cloud and the group’s leadership. She has once again become a driving force with Shore Sweep, as well as helping manage the association’s ongoing clean-ups throughout the year.
Recently, Putney was named Volunteer of the Year by the Hall County Green Alliance.
In her spare time, Putney paddles both popular and little-traveled rivers, lakes and streams throughout the Southeast. She’s done the week-long Georgia River Network’s Paddle Georgia every year since its inception 10 years ago, and she frequently leads paddles for novices and experts. She’s paddled most of the Chattahoochee, the Apalachicola and the Suwannee River, and she’s even paddled offshore in Florida from Key Largo to Key West.
“You know, water is my passion,” she said. “People just don’t realize that it’s a finite resource – both to sustain life and for recreation – and it’s crucial that we all do our part to preserve it and use it wisely. If every one of us does their part, there will be plenty of water – clean water – for our future generations to enjoy for centuries to come.”
Posted online 7/28/14