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Preserve what we've got

Some things should just be left alone. But unfortunately several Georgia politicians have dollar signs in their eyes, and we may end up losing one of our most treasured, untouched pieces of wilderness because of it.

Cumberland Island is located on the Georgia coast, and it used to be the stomping ground of some very rich and powerful people. The Carnegies, the Candlers and the Rockefellers called the island home -- when they weren't in one of their other 50 houses.

They owned so much of the land that when they moved off, they decided to have it all used as a reserve. Congress designated most of the island as a National Seashore in 1982. Aside from a few leftover permanent residents and old structures, the island is undeveloped.

I think it should stay that way. To my horror, some of the most powerful people in the state don't agree. U.S. Senators Saxby Chambliss and Zell Miller and U.S. Reps. David Scott, Sanford Bishop and Jack Kingston are trying to push a bill through Congress that would allow motorized tours on the island.

For the most part, only residents and park officials are allowed to drive vehicles on the island right now. That keeps it pristine. Where else can people go around here to see land and animals like that?

I've been to Cumberland Island with my family. We had to make reservations to visit because the number of people on the island is limited at any given time. We took a boat to get there because we, of course, were not allowed to drive.

We walked everywhere we went, and I remember feeling weird walking down the middle of the road that is encompassed by huge oak branches. I thought at any second a car would zoom past and kick up dust in my face, but it never happened.

Motorized tours would degrade the island. It would no longer be a special getaway -- mainly because you couldn't get away from the hustle and bustle.

If this bill passes, the last vestige of wild Georgia will die the slow death of development. It's just the beginning. Next, they will pass a bill allowing endless hotels on the shore. Then they will pave the roads.

Before long, Cumberland will look just like Hilton Head or St. Simons. Don't misunderstand me. I love those places too, but there's something stunningly beautiful about a place where people can be alone in the wilderness. Cumberland is even more intriguing because it's an island.

I don't want to stand back and let them take this first step toward turning Cumberland into a resort. I plan on letting my congressmen know that I want Cumberland to stay just like it is.



Web posted on Thursday, September 30, 2004


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