Private Fastness: Tales Of Wild

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Most of the members of the Carnegie family with property on Cumberland have become fiercely attached to the island, particularly Mrs. Lucy Ferguson, the handsome granddaughter of Thomas and Lucy Carnegie. “Mrs. Lucy,” as she is called, has spent a considerable part of her life protecting the natural environment and the wildlife on the island, and she probably feels more keenly than any other person the encroachment of the outside world. Her son O. Ricketson “Rick” Ferguson lives at Greyfield, which he operates as an exclusive inn. When Charles Fraser managed to buy more than three thousand acres on the island in 1968, Mrs. Ferguson and Rick determined that they would prefer to see their island become a national park rather than a vacation suburb. All the Cumberland landowners, including the Candlers on the north end of the island, were concerned that Eraser’s development would mean the construction of a causeway from the mainland to the island, and this, they knew, would result in incredible damage to the fecund but fragile ecology of the marshlands and, eventually, to the island itself. When Fraser’s proposed development came to the attention of conservationists, he was treated to a storm of public protests that rang all the way from the state capitol in Atlanta to the university in Athens.

 

Fraser, who did not get rich through fighting impossible battles, backed off and agreed to sell his share of the island to the National Park Foundation, which plans eventually to purchase all the land on Cumberland in parcels and then convey the island to the Department of the Interior. It was a narrow escape and a great victory for conservationists in Georgia and the Southeast, and possibly Eraser’s defeat may establish a precedent for the future development of the entire coast.

As for Cumberland, the National Park Service does not know exactly when the island will be opened to the public. It may take as long as two years to complete the purchase of the land; the price is steep, said to approach ten million dollars for the entire island. Plans now call for utilization of existing buildings as visitor centers and the gradual development of trails, boat decks, picnic areas, and primitive camping facilities. Of course, no causeway will be constructed, and visitors will be taken to the island by ferry.

The island will be a haven for nature lovers: it is situated on the edge of the Atlantic fly way, and thousands of ducks flock to the island lakes in the winter. There is also excellent fishing for channel bass, mackerel, snapper, pompano, bluefish, and sea trout. But most people, doubtless, will find the island’s magnificent beach the main attraction.

It is to be fervently prayed, of course, that the public will show as much respect and appreciation for the natural resources of the island as have the past owners. It is also to be hoped that the island’s past will be remembered. For the Cumberland National Seashore will be one of the few areas in the National Park lands in which each epoch of American history is clearly traceable.