Transportation on Cumberland Island?

The National Park Service is looking into improving access (for vehicles) on the northern end of Cumberland Island. You can see what is planned here and comment on the proposal (until September 1) here.

Since I’m not a resident of that area, I don’t know much about Cumberland Island and how things are done down there. My brother was married on the island a few years ago and I remember how beautiful it is. It would be a shame to spoil that natural beauty and if that’s what the proposal does, then I’m against it.

15 comments

  1. Atlanta Lawyer says:

    Right now its very hard to get around the island as the only means of transportation allowed is walking, unless you stay at the Inn from which you can get bicycles. It’s a big island to hike around so there is a need for people to be able to get around.

  2. JasonW says:

    I’m from St. Marys…and I can say that the majority of the residents of St. Marys support the Kingston Bill. It would only open the island up to Golf Carts, and few actual automobiles if any. It’s an 8 mile island that people can only currently enjoy several miles of because of poor transportation…

  3. Demonbeck says:

    Jason,

    Isn’t an 18 mile island – the largest island off of Georgia’s coast?

    This is the result of a bill proposed by Kingston and was passed in the last Congress.

    I would definitely encourage any blogger out there in PeachPundit land with even a remote interest in this island to go and visit. You will not be disappointed.

  4. bert_guy says:

    I am a life long resident of Camden County, Georgia and Cumberland Island is a beautiful island and a wonderful exhibit of nature. Transportation on Cumberland is essential for visitors to fully enjoy and experience the entire island. It is absurd to expect visitors to have the stamina or ability to walk the 17.5 mile length of the island to see the historic structures on the North end of the Island and then walk back. Thankfully Congress saw the need to remedy this situation to give the public the ability to see the Island held in trust for the public.

    We as Citizens and taxpayers have the right to enjoy the parks that our tax dollars support. People and wildlife have flourished on that island for thousands of years. The roads that are being used today are historical roads that were used by the Indians for thousands of years. The number of increased visitors on the island will not detrimentally affect the wildlife on the island.

    The current regulations and restrictions have created a system whereby the
    park service and the environmental elite have cars and transportation on the
    island, but the public is excluded from the island. The elitists want to
    keep the public from enjoying the island while they continue to drive their
    private cars on the island and keep the island to themselves. This project
    and plan is going to allow the public the access that the elite enjoy.
    This island will never have paved roads. The transportation would be run by
    the park service or a company that they hire and it would still be a no frills
    experience, but it would be an experience. Visitors will not have their
    own cars on the island. I don’t know of another national park that has
    absolutely no transportation at all anywhere in the park. That is what we
    currently have here. You can be transported to the park, but that is it.
    After you arrive you can’t get around the park. This current system
    discriminates against the elderly, the disabled, and those who do not have a
    propensity to walk 35 miles round trip.

    In conclusion, Cumberland has beautiful scenery and a rich history and the public has a right to have access to the history and beauty of Cumberland that can only be experienced with a transportation system.

  5. Mike Hauncho says:

    Bert,
    It is not absurd to ask people to have the stamina to walk the 17.5 miles. There are thousands of acres in Yellowstone Park that have no roads and are only accessible by long hikes, some taking several days. Should we build roads all over that park? I am not against people going to see the Cumberland Island. I think it is one of Georgia’s little known treasures but I think the reason we set aside parks and forests like that is not to make it easily accesible to the public but to allow it to remain as undisturbed and natural as possible. Having roads which were used 1000 years ago by native inhabitants with cars on them today really defeats the purpose of protecting the land in the first place.

  6. Demonbeck says:

    Mike,

    Yellowstone doesn’t have the historical buildings that Cumberland does. Plus, the roads in question are all currently used by cars owned by the island’s inhabitants and the National Park Service. Allowing an additional trip or two a day on these roads for the purposes of allowing more people to learn Georgia’s history and to learn to appreciate nature is not going to do anything but promote environmental conservation/preservation.

    Being able to see all that Cumberland Island has to offer should not be limited to all but a few Georgians.

  7. holtwebb says:

    I totally agree that paving roads will provide people with easier access to the island. I also agree that adding more roads will have the same effect.

    What most people fail to understand about granting access to wildlife and nature is that the very accessibility compromises the natural state of the environment you are visiting.

    People and wildlife HAVE flourished for generations on the island. Why? Because they didn’t have civilization crowding in on them, forcing them to change. Yes, the roads that are there today served them well. And they still serve them well. What is being proposed is road construction to serve Visitors. These new roads will allow more movement across and around the island allowing more people to get from point A to point B. And more poeple means more facilities for those people (including bathrooms, parking, food, garbage collection, running water, electricity,etc. — it’s in the proposal). It’s an inevitiable progression. And, on an island as small as Cumberland, it will have a serious impact.

    You have every right to enjoy the parks, and you have the right to improve access. But if you do, no matter how you look at it, it will NOT be the same park you see today. That is the most important piece of this issue.

    It’s a basic rule of Quantum Physics. The mere act of observation affects that which is being observed.

    And that is the bottom line…

    Once you allow access to a place, any place, you change the dynamics of that place and it will never be the same again.

  8. Demonbeck says:

    holtwebb,

    No one has said anything about adding or paving roads on Cumberland Island. Currently, the National Park Service uses and maintains these roads as do the people who still live on the island. This issue is only about allowing the National Park Service to provide a ride from the south end of the island to the north end of the island and back on some sort of schedule (be it once, twice or thrice a day) versus forcing people to walk 36 miles round trip in order to see it all.

  9. holtwebb says:

    Demonbeck and Bert Guy,

    You’re correct. So far, no public official has stated anything in print (that I can find) about paving roads on Cumberland, although many articles allude to the possibility. But, that isn’t the point of the debate over the island. The debate is about increased access and the negative effects that access will have. (Paving roads is just one of those things that tends to happen when you increase public access, whether it’s a national park or a municipality.)

    Additionally, it’s encouraging that people are interested in nature and want to see the island, and it’s great that the NPS wants more people to see it, but nobody is being “forced” to walk 36 miles to do it. If you want to walk, you can. If you want to take a bike, you can. You can even take the Greyfield Inn’s tour bus. There are several options for people willing to make the effort. And, it should take effort to get there — it’s wilderness.

    And, Bert Guy, you say, “This current system discriminates against the elderly, the disabled, and those who do not have a propensity to walk 35 miles round trip.”

    You’re right. It’s difficult to get around the island, it’s difficult to get around the Grand Canyon, too. Nature discriminates. I know it may seem harsh, but if you have physical ailments or disabilities that prevent you from making the trek around Cumberland Island, or you just don’t feel like walking, then you’ll have to do the exact same thing you’d have to do if you wanted to hike the Grand Canyon or swim the Great Barrier Reef: tough it out. (Or maybe we should provide shuttle service to those places, too?) I’m sorry, but we just can’t make everything accessible to everybody.

    All those offshoot debates aside, what seems to be the real issue at hand, what seems to be at the heart of why people are taking sides on this issue in the first place, is this…

    Will improved access hurt the island?

    I agree that every citizen has the right to enjoy the Park, and you have the right to request improved access. But if you do, no matter how you look at it, it will NOT be the same park you see today. I, personally, don’t want to see the island change. But that’s just one person’s opinion. There are thousands of other opinions to be heard and weighed. And the majority will rule. So, be careful what you wish for — once all the ADA-approved services are implemented, and access is increased, Cumberland Island will be a very different place.

  10. Demonbeck says:

    Holtwebb,

    There are so many inaccuracies in your last post that I am unsure where to begin. As a result, I will take each point in succession.

    [b]So far, no public official has stated anything in print (that I can find) about paving roads on Cumberland, although many articles allude to the possibility. [/b]

    Yes, articles. Articles written by journalists with a bone to pick. Praytell, which journalists are these? Journalists in the pockets of the environmental groups who are so hellbent against setting a precedent of changing wilderness designation for the first time in history. Regardless of the fact that this wilderness designation was placed on top of private homes and businesses.

    Articles written by fair and balanced journalists like Charles Seabrook? Who in his own bio says,

    “Charles Seabrook has been the environmental writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 1986. Since 1994, he has also written a weekly column for the newspaper called “Wild Georgia.” He has won awards from the National Wildlife Federation, the Southern Environmental Law Center, and various press organizations. In 2001, the state of Georgia gave him the R. L. “Rock” Howard Award, its highest conservation award. He lives in Decatur, Georgia.”

    There is nothing wrong with being an environmentalist and a journalist. However, to point to an article written by one about an environmental isue and say that anything in it was written without bias is asinine.

    [b]But, that isn’t the point of the debate over the island. The debate is about increased access and the negative effects that access will have. (Paving roads is just one of those things that tends to happen when you increase public access, whether it’s a national park or a municipality.)[/b]

    This is not about public access to the island. This is about improving access to the northern part of the island. Currently, there is ample access to the island provided by a ferry service. The ferry service is largely underutilized, but federal law requires a certain amount of access to ALL National Park Service sites.

    The problem is access to the Northern part of the island. Currently, access to the northern tip is provided by the same ferry service. It takes this ferry 45 minutes to make it from the south end to the north end of the island each way through manatee infested waters. Nevermind the fact that this ferry is quite often largely empty both ways – it must provide access should someone need it – it is a large waste of fuel, time and money that could go otherwise to the added cost of upkeep on a celan fuel bus that could make the trip much faster on the main road that is already maintained and used by the National Park Service vehicles and the private individuals who still live on the island.

    [b]Additionally, it’s encouraging that people are interested in nature and want to see the island, and it’s great that the NPS wants more people to see it, but nobody is being “forced

  11. holtwebb says:

    demonbeck,

    You really should direct some of that energy and anger to the National Park Service and let them know how you feel. You’re wasting your time debating with me. I don’t have the power to make any decisions on the project.

    I don’t mind that we disagree. People disagree all the time. And I applaud your interest in the topic. It’s good when people can exchange ideas and opinions on a subject. But when it degenerates into argument and critique of the commentary itself rather than the issue at hand, it doesn’t do anything to move the discussion forward.

    I’m not going to get into a shouting match with you. I feel the way I do about Cumberland Island because I’ve seen too many of my favorite places disappear in the name of progress. To me, it’s that simple.

    When Cumberland Island falls prey to development, you’ll see what I mean.

    You can submit your comments to the NPS up until September 15th by visiting this link (or by clicking on the link at the top of the page):
    http://parkplanning.nps.gov/commentForm.cfm?projectID=16447&documentId=16171

    Happy hunting.

  12. cumberlandgirl says:

    The roads on Cumberland will NEVER be paved, don’t worry! I am a Carnegie descendant and property owner on the island. There will not be “new” roads made through the Wilderness area. The same roads that have been there for over 100 years will be used and the impact will be minimal. There has been much controversy regarding the tours being allowed to go through the Wilderness area, but I and plenty of other residents will be keeping a VERY close watch on this. Everyone should be able to see these beautiful and remote parts of Cumberland. Using an established road that has not harmed the ecosystem for more than 100 years will have little effect on the ecosystem there.

  13. cumberlandgirl says:

    Cumberland will NEVER be developed. It is a National Seashore and will stay that way forever. “Progress” does not affect Cumberland Island.

  14. Demonbeck says:

    The only mentions of progress in this entire debate come from environmentalists. The entire idea of allowing NPS to use the main road is to take visitors from the south end to the north end and cut out the ferry trips (to the north end) through manatee infested waters, thereby saving fuel costs and sea cows.

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