David Kyler, executive director of the Center for a Sustainable Coast, wrote a powerful op-ed about Cumberland Iskand in this week’s edition of Connect Savannah. An excerpt appears below. Read the entire op-ed at connectsavannah.com.
We now face a proposal for subdividing a parcel on Cumberland Island into ten lots intended for individual homes, to be decided under the authority of Camden County and its planning commission.
If approved and built, this development would fundamentally reverse the 46-year-old agreement to safeguard Cumberland Island as America’s premier example of responsible coastal stewardship. The National Park Service must be held accountable to tax-payer obligations by implementing a plan that prevents development.
Some $100 million in federal and land conservation funds have been spent to secure and maintain a pristine future for Cumberland Island. Passively allowing the hard-won and costly national struggle for Cumberland’s protection to be negated by a careless local government decision made in disregard for national priorities would be both shameful and absurd.
Can there be any doubt that once additional real-estate development is permitted at the Cumberland National Seashore, similar proposals will further undermine the future of our unsurpassed coastal treasure? Would we tolerate such threats to Yosemite or Yellowstone – comparable national assets?
Resolutely defending the promise and longstanding public trust that Cumberland will not be developed honors our national identity and our word. It would be deplorable and demoralizing if we allowed this glorious gem of Georgia’s coast to be stripped of its enchantment. The serene experience of Cumberland must not be debased by the destructive disturbance of more residents, more buildings, and more vehicles.
If we’re truly committed to safeguarding places of exceptional natural beauty, surely we will hold Cumberland Island sacrosanct. The opportunity to experience one of America’s most magnificent places must not be lost to this and future generations.
As Americans and Georgians we must reassert our conviction that such revered natural treasures must not be irreversibly degraded in the misguided pursuit of private objectives benefitting a few at the expense of the many.
Cumberland guardians should voice concerns by contacting Camden officials via the clerk’s office, email@example.com .
Watch a powerful video of a loggerhead sea turtle nesting on Cumberland Island National Seashore.
The photo shows where the 88-acre development will be located in relation to Sea Camp dock, where most visitors arrive on Cumberland Island. It will literally be within a stone’s throw of the visitor center. The development property extends all the way across the island to the wild, pristine beach.
Send a quick email to the Camden County Commissioners urging them to deny the variance permit for this proposed subdivision: firstname.lastname@example.org
The island needs you now more than ever. Thanks for your help.
The “no bicycles allowed” sign on the Duckhouse Trail at the beach was recently vandalized — torn off. Bicycles regularly use both Duckhouse and Willow Pond Wilderness Trails. As if mocking the Wilderness, the National Park Service allows campers to bicycle with all their camping gear to Brickhill Campsite, as long as the bikes are left at the road. The strip of road was removed from Wilderness by special interests (Greyfield), and is within sight of the campground.
So many of you have asked what you can do about the Cumberland Island variance appeal. Lumar LLC wishes to divide 87.51 acres 1/4 mile from Sea Camp on Cumberland Island into 10 plots so that they can build a “family compound.”
The best and most effective action you can take is to contact the Camden County Commissioners and express your feelings. Send your email to the County Clerk at email@example.com and she will ensure that all Commissioners receive a copy.
NOTICE REGARDING THE CUMBERLAND ISLAND APPEAL
Camden County Planning & Development
The Camden County Board of Commissioners will have a PUBLIC HEARING
DATE: February 7, 2017
TIME: 5:00 pm
LOCATION: Government Services Building located at 200 East 4th Street, Second Floor, Commissioners’ Chambers, Woodbine, GA 31569.
PUBLIC HEARING AGENDA ITEMS:
1) ZV2017-01 Appeal by William R. Bruce (and other signing individuals), of the December 7, 2016 Planning Commission decision to approve Hardship Variance request ZV2016 – 8, to allow up to a 10 lot split minor subdivision, having unpaved road frontage, since there are no paved streets on Cumberland Island. The property is 87.51 acres. Tax Parcel 181 006, Zoned C-P (Conservation Preservation). LUMAR LLC, owner.
2) ZV2017-02 Appeal by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the National Parks Conservation Association and the St. Marys EarthKeepers, of the December 7, 2016 Planning Commission decision to approve Hardship Variance request ZV2016 – 8, to allow up to a 10 lot split minor subdivision, having unpaved road frontage, since there are no paved streets on Cumberland Island. The property is 87.51 acres. Tax Parcel 181 006, Zoned C-P (Conservation Preservation). LUMAR LLC, owner.
What exactly is wilderness? What are we fighting for on Cumberland Island and other wild places across the country? David Cole, Doug Scott, Ed Zahniser, Roger Kaye, George Nickas, and Kevin Proescholdt offer a powerful answer in the December 2017 issue of Wilderness Guardian published by Wilderness Watch, a national organization dedicated to protecting the ecological integrity and wilderness character of the U.S. Wilderness system. An excerpt appears below:
Wilderness character is fundamentally about wildness. It should be defined as the degree to which wilderness is free from deliberate human modification, control, and manipulation of a character and scope that hampers the free play of natural ecological processes.
Protecting wilderness character is about ensuring that wilderness remains untrammeled and undeveloped, without human occupation or domination. We do so by not allowing developments or manipulating wilderness ecosystems to any significant degree.
Manipulations where the intent is more to remove evidence of humans than to intervene in ecological processes, such as restoration of an impacted campsite, are not a concern. Actions that seek to modify wilderness ecosystems significantly, such as a program of herbicide spraying or prescribed fire, are much harder to justify because they degrade wilderness character.
We are not alone in believing that wildness is the central quality of wilderness character. In 1953, Howard Zahniser wrote, “We must remember always that the essential quality of the wilderness is its wildness.” In that same paragraph, Zahniser stated: “we must not only protect the wilderness from commercial exploitation. We must also see that we do not ourselves destroy its wilderness character in our own management programs.”
More recently, Jack Turner wrote that “if we fail to incorporate wildness into what we mean by wilderness we simply define wilderness out of existence.”
Doug Scott, in an article on wilderness character and the Wilderness Act, states that it is the word untrammeled that defines “the wilderness character (that) it is the duty of conservationists and land managers to protect,” a perspective repeated by Proescholdt. Howard Zahniser’s son, Ed, concluded an article on wilderness character with the statement “The wilderness character of designated wilderness is its wildness.
In 1963, Howard Zahniser discussed the stewardship implications of protecting wildness in an editorial that took issue with the Department of Interior’s Leopold Report on wildlife management in national parks. The report recommended that national parks be actively managed to restore their condition at the time they were first visited by white men, to present “a vignette of primitive America.” Zahniser wrote that “… the board’s report poses a serious threat to the wilderness within the national park system and indeed the wilderness concept itself.” It “… is certainly in contrast with the wilderness philosophy of protecting areas at their boundaries and trying to let natural forces operate within the wilderness untrammeled by man.” He concluded the editorial:
“With regard to areas of wilderness, we should be guardians not gardeners.”
Read the entire article at wildernesswatch.org.
For those interested in opposing the proposed subdivision on Cumberland Island, here is a sample letter. Comments must be received by December 7:
Dear Mr. Landon and the Camden County Planning and Development Team,
Please encourage the Camden County Planning and Development Board to reject the proposed special exemption variance requested for the Rose/Warren property on Cumberland Island.
The proposed 10-lot subdivision is completely inappropriate for the sandy, rutted Main Road and the property’s location, less than a quarter-mile from the Cumberland Island Visitor Center and main dock.
Construction of a subdivision so close to the headquarters of Cumberland Island National Seashore and its 50,000 annual visitors will be detrimental to visitation, tourism, viewsheds, watersheds, and the sensitive ecology of Cumberland Island.
Rare and endangered species are located n the island and could be affected by a 10-lot development and construction.
It would also be visible to all visitors to the national seashore and affect viewsheds and watersheds on the south end of the island.
Cumberland Island is a global biosphere reserve. A 10-lot development in the heart of the visitor experience will detract from the beauty and serenity that visitors seek when planning trips to Cumberland.
Arriving on Cumberland Island National Seashore to find a 10-lot development right next to the visitor center will discourage visitors and damage both the island and the visitors’ experience.
Cumberland Island’s founding legislation mandated that the island gradually evolve into a wilder, less developed national seashore as retained rights expire. Allowing a 10-lot subdivision would be a violation of Congressional will and the public trust.
Thank you for considering these concerns.
An island family is proposing to build a new 10-lot subdivision less than a quarter-mile from Sea Camp on Cumberland Island. The land is owned by heirs who did not sell their property to the National Park Service. As a result, they own the land outright as a private inholding within Cumberland Island National Seashore.
The developers have requested a special exemption variance from the county planning and development board. You can comment on the variance by contacting Camden County’s Director of Planning and Development at firstname.lastname@example.org
The county requires that all subdivisions be fronted by a paved road. The Main Road on Cumberland is unpaved. The developers are requesting a special exemption from this requirement so that their 10-lot subdivision can proceed.
This is the only opportunity for the public to comment on the proposed subdivision. Comments must be received by December 7.
An excerpt of the letter announcing the subdivision developer’s proposal and request for a special exemption variance appears below:
RE: Special Exception Variance #ZV2016-07
To Whom It May Concern:
Glenn Warren requests a Hardship Variance from the requirements of the Camden County Unified Development Code (UDC) Sec. 501(b)(3), to allow a 10 lot split with unpaved road frontage. The request is to allow subdivision of the property into 10 lots fronting on Main Road, an unpaved road, since there are no paved streets on Cumberland Island. The Camden County Tax Map shows the property as Tax Parcel 181 006 and located in the C-P, Conservation Preservation Zoning District with access via Main Road. Lumar, LLC is shown as the owner.
A public hearing on the special exemption variance is scheduled for December 7 at 6 p.m. in Kingsland, Ga. If you are unable to attend the meeting and would like to comment, or have any questions, please feel free to contact Eric Landon at (912)729-5603 / email@example.com
Hurricane Matthew pruned and removed weakened tree from the island forest, leaving the Main Road impassable by a vehicle. The Park Service imported fire crews from all over the country to help clear the debris and open the road. In 2004, Greyfield solicited a corrupted congressman to remove the Main Road, north end, and beach from Wilderness designation. Chainsaws could then legally be used in those areas. The Park Service also used chainsaws on hiking trails within the Wilderness. This is in direct violation of the Wilderness Act.
Use of motorized equipment in the Wilderness is a recurring example of mis-management of the island Wilderness by the National Park Service, since the Wilderness was established in 1982. WildCumberland has made numerous requests regarding island Wilderness management, but to no avail. Please help WildCumberland effect proper Wilderness management by sending your comments and concerns to: Gary Ingram, Superintendent, Cumberland Island National Seashore (Gary_Ingram@nps.gov), with a copy to the NPS Southeast Regional Office (Darrell_Echols@nps.gov).
Carol Ruckdeschel provided these photos from the beaches of Cumberland Island. The first photo shows the wrack-covered beach near Sea Camp; the other three photos show the dunes near Willow Pond.