When the National Park Service purchased lands from island residents to create Cumberland Island National Seashore almost 40 years ago, they also granted retained rights to those residents, allowing them to continue living on the island for a specified period of time. The duration of the 21 retained rights granted by the National Park Service varied by family. Most retained rights will expire within the next 50 years, and 7 retained rights will expire at the end of 2010.
When retained rights expire, the land fully becomes property of the National Park Service. As the number of human residences diminishes over time, the island’s natural systems gradually improve, which was the original vision of the seashore’s founding legislation. Like an arrow through time, Cumberland Island is intended to steadily evolve toward a wilder and more natural place.
The retained rights residents have been admirable stewards of the island, and they have honorably upheld the privilege of living in a national park for nearly 40 years. But they and the National Park Service signed a deal with the American people when they sold their land to the park. The park’s continued evolution depends on upholding that obligation and fully retiring all retained rights. Extending the retained rights in any form—whether by a historic lease or some other arrangement—
violates the founding vision for the island and is an absolute threat to its future.
Currently the National Park Service is considering offering “historic leases” to residents whose rights are about to expire. Such an agreement would allow the owner to remain and use or rent the property in exchange for maintaining the structure. This is not in keeping with the goals of the Seashore nor the contract with the American people. It would also mean that owners of all historic properties on the island—and even potentially non-historic properties—
would be offered the same option. The evolution of the Wilderness would be halted and even reversed by such leases. Island residents would continue inhabiting the park and Wilderness indefinitely.
The American people paid tens of millions to buy Cumberland Island—
millions that these island residents have already received. In return, Americans were promised an island that would become more natural and less inhabited over time. The National Park Service can faithfully honor that promise by not leasing property back to retained rights residents.
Please take a moment to take action on this issue by sending our form letter to our National Park Service representatives!
To send the form letter, please follow these simple instructions:
1. Click the button below.
2. The form letter is password-protected to reduce spam. The password is “cumberland.”
3. Read the letter. Enter your name, email and zip code.
Visit our Island Issues page for more issues affecting Cumberland Island.