When Cumberland Island National Seashore was established in 1972, both the general public and residents who sold their land to the park supported a limit on the number of visitors, so that the island’s wild and natural state could remain unspoiled.
In the early planning stages, the Park Service proposed a tour service on Cumberland Island; however, conservation organizations, island residents, and the general public joined together in opposition.
In 1982, Congress designated much of the north end of Cumberland Island as a Wilderness Area. The Park Service also enacted an island management plan that caps the total number of visitors at 300 and prohibits any unnecessary development, especially on the north end of the island.
Despite its Wilderness designation, Greyfield Inn continued to operate illegal motorized vehicle tours through the area until 2004, when the Eleventh Circuit Court put a stop to them.
Several months after the court stopped these tours, Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA) attached a last-minute rider to a House Appropriations Bill.
This bill removed the entire Main Road from Wilderness designation on Cumberland Island. It also removed a large section of the north end and the entire beach and required the National Park Service to conduct five to eight tours to the north end of the island every day. This bill also passed without any opportunity for public comment. See the bill in full here.
Why is this so important? This is the first time in U.S. history that land designated as a Wilderness Area has been removed and fragmented into smaller areas.
Dividing the Wilderness Area and mandating motorized vehicles to drive through such a critical ecosystem sets a dangerous precedent, not only for Cumberland Island, but for protected Wilderness Areas everywhere. It also allows the Park Service free reign to manipulate the north end of the island.
Currently, the National Park Service contracts its ten-passenger van tours through concessioner Lang’s Seafood Inc., an approved concessioner. Multiple tours are offered every day the ferry is operating. The island tour includes stops at the First African Baptist Church, the Stafford property, and Plum Orchard mansion.
Greyfield Inn continues to conduct its own private-profit vehicle tours daily to the north end and along the beach. They have a customized truck used for this purpose.
ALL of these tours damage the integrity of Wilderness and the ecology of the island.
Let officials know that you oppose island tours by using the form below to send a direct message to the NPS.
You may also contact National Park Service Superintendent Gary Ingram directly at (912) 882-4336.