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Editor’s notes: Sapelo Time is running out of time
editor's notes

Everybody’s got to make a living, so I try to keep my mouth shut when people do things that beggar belief.

And yet here we are again, with forces at play which may well lead to the destruction of a historic community down on Sapelo Island. The usual suspects, developers and dollar signs, both potent forces in this part of the world, are likely behind the latest assault on the Hogg Hammock community. And here I digress.

Somewhere, at home in a box upstairs is a T-shirt I got back around 1999 from The Trough, which at the time was the only bar on Sapelo Island. It may still be, I haven’t had a chance to back.

I was lucky enough to be there then with a small group of paramedics and EMTs from around coastal Georgia to report on their plan to teach Hogg Hammock residents and UGA professors and employees working at what was the old Dairy Farm enough emergency first aid to tide them over until emergency help could arrive by ferry or helicopter.

It was there I learned just how much fun hanging out with first responders can be, especially if you like a cold beer or two after a hard day’s work. But more importantly, it was there I got to meet and interview Cornelia Bailey and learn about Sapelo Time.

And it was there I first learned about and fell in love with the Gullah Geechee community and its culture, which has so much to teach if we only had the sense to not only listen to it, but take it to heart.

And it was there I saw what paradise can look like, and, just as importantly, feel like.

In the decades since then, the pressures of economics and growth and Sapelo’s location on the Georgia coast has long made it a target of the sort of folks who can’t leave things alone if it looks like there a buck in it for them. And as land hereabouts not already ruined by development becomes scarcer, the headlines become worse.

Not long ago, developers made the news up in Hilton Head Island in my home state of South Carolina for the sorry act of pressuring a 93-year-old descendant of slaves to force her off land that’s been in her family since the end of the War Between the States. She’s fighting back, and I hope she not only wins, but takes the developers to the cleaners.

I suspect the same sort of developer, meaning one who will go where he is not welcome by all and do whatever it takes to get what he wants, is behind the so-far successful effort to change zoning requirements on Sapelo Island.

Larger homes will now be allowed to be built on Sapelo, a decision will ultimately favor the wealthy and could eventually lead the descendants of slaves who’ve called Hogg Hammock home for generations to be unable to afford the taxes on their land and homes, while giving them the sort of new neighbors who’ll probably try to create some sort of HOA for the entire island That the measure came up for a vote before the McIntosh County Commission is sad, but that’s not the commission’s fault. Developers and property owners have rights, too, though in some cases you wonder if they have a conscience.

I hate to paint with a broad brush, it’s just hard to hear such news when the reality behind it impacts a historic community like Hogg Hammock. Or anywhere, really.

Truth be told, most of us in the Coastal Empire and South Carolina Lowcountry are imperiled by the continued onslaught of so-called progress that brings with it all the sorts of thing people keep moving down here in droves to get away from, only to bring it with them and inflict it on the natives, whether it was asked for it or not.

Whether it’s warehouses or industry or cookie cutter subdivisions miles wide and long and deep, the continued assault on what this coast used to be is happening on the mainland, too.

Ah well. Maybe there’s still a chance of a reprieve. It’s been reported the Hogg Hammock folks will appeal the McIntosh County Commission’s decision, though how exactly that might work is not exactly clear.

I do know the thing about Sapelo Time was how it could slow life down and stand it still, and give one a sense there’s more to life than profit and loss and all the stupid pointless excesses and waste of the consumer culture we find ourselves buried in. And that’s the sort of time we could all use more of, not less. Sadly, though, it appears Sapelo Time may finally be running out of time.

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