Hearings to cover Cumberland Island tour plans

8 09 2008

ST. MARYS, Ga. — Nearly 45,000 people visit Cumberland Island National Seashore annually, but few get a chance to see much of the 17-mile-long barrier island.

That’s because walking is the only way to get anywhere on the island after a ferry drops off visitors at a dock near the south end of the island.

Most don’t have the time or stamina to hike to some of the well-known historic areas such as Plum Orchard mansion, High Point Half-Moon historic district, or the First African Baptist Church, where John Kennedy Jr. was married in 1996.


But with the passage of the Cumberland Island Wilderness Boundary Act in December 2004, Congress created a way to give visitors more access to the island without walking as far as 30 miles roundtrip.

The legislation removed three roads and the High Point Half-Moon historic district from wilderness or potential wilderness protection. The legislation also requires the National Park Service to offer no fewer than five and no more than eight vehicle tours to the north end of the island each day.

The challenge now is to determine the best way to shuttle visitors to the north end of the island, who will offer the tours, how much it will cost and where to take visitors.

Those issues will be discussed this month in St. Marys and Atlanta in a series of public hearings scheduled on implementing the plan. The dates of the hearings are expected to be announced this week when a draft of the proposed plan is released, Park Service officials said.

No funding for the vehicle tours was addressed in the legislation mandating the tours.

Regardless of any changes after the hearings, Park Service officials said the plan will have a major impact on the national seashore.

Read on here.




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