Note: This letter is in response to a recent column on Cumberland Island by Janisse Ray.
Cumberland Island is destined to all be national park since only one estate, Greyfield Inn, is owned in perpetuity. The rest of the island will eventually be in National Park Service hands.
The issues this article from a pregnant camper are referring to have to do with the park service running tours about half way up the island to the 1903 estate known as Plum Orchard. It has been meticulously restored by very skilled people, many volunteering for weeks, and NPS has spent millions in the process. There is NO DEVELOPMENT planned whatsoever.
Along with ruins of the 1880’s Dungeness, Plum will become one of the centerpieces of the park, celebrating the cultural heritage of the park. In fact Europeans have been on the island since James Oglethorpe had a hunt camp there, also named Dungeness, and again in 1803 when Savannah resident Nathanael Greene and his colorful wife Katy were given land for the first Dungeness mansion by George Washington, once the tallest tabby structure in the world, and burned in the Civil War. The Park Service has the wisdom to balance the wilderness of the island, threatened by pigs and trampled by horses, with the undeniable and fascinating human history of the place. Please keep in mind that not every one of the few visitors who can get there - only 300 per day on two ferries - wants to wallow in the dirt with the ticks.
Opening three roads in the designated wilderness area, an ill conceived plan for Cumberland from the seventies, will also allow NPS unfettered vehicle access to the north end of the park in the event they want to restore The Settlement, the historical African-American community and also gain access to the north end for fire suppression and fire maintenance of natural habitats. Using horses to do any of this is just plain whacko. This is an 18 mile island. Horses would take forever to reach the 12 miles north to Plum. Furthermore, in another giant leap of impetuosity, the columnist doesn’t seem to realize the horses are treated as wild animals on park land. They cannot be domesticated and harnessed.
Finally, Greyfield has been running tours on the island for their overnight guests for years (I was part of that on and off for two years including lecturing on the cultural history of the island), and other current owners have a run of the island in their vehicles - all 20 of them!
Amazing that the island has been able to endure such abuse and is still there, isn’t it?
Go National Park Service!!
Skidaway Island, Ga.