Tag Archives: Cumberland Island

The NPS Proposed Budget for the National Parks

First (and last) Caldwell Fork crossing
First (and last) Caldwell Fork crossing on the Boogerman Trail

President Obama submitted a four trillion dollar budget that includes three billion dollars for the National Park Service. It includes more than $1 billion to address the National Park System’s $11.3 billion maintenance backlog. The National Park Service operations budget request restores funding to levels prior to the sequester and other cuts

It also funds a public-private partnership – the Centennial Challenge – in connection with the system’s 2016 centennial.

2016 – That’s next year. You would have thought that the extra money might have come a little sooner.

To put the Park Service budget in perspective, the analysts at the National Park Conservation Association said the agency’s budget “represents just one-fifteenth of 1 percent of the federal budget, costing the average family about as much as a cup of coffee each year in income tax dollars.”  In other words, the boost in NPS request is not going to make much difference to the taxpayer but will make a lot of difference to the parks.

President Obama’s budget for the national parks sounds very hopeful. But it’s all about me, as they say. Will the budget fund:

* New bridges on the Boogerman Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park? See above.

* Enough staff so that the visitor center at Congaree National Park can be open on Sundays? How can a national park visitor center be closed on Sunday?

Cumberland Island
Cumberland Island

* Rangers to give regular tours on Cumberland Island National Seashore?

* More rangers to interpret Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site? When I visited, the one ranger on duty was being pulled so many directions.

But first, let’s hope that Congress passes the budget.

Cumberland Island – Land and Legacy Tour

Yesterday I wrote about Untamed, the book. Today, I went on the Land and Legacy Tour, given by the rangers at Cumberland Island National Seashore.

20150104CUIShorses 012ACumberland Island has had a human history for thousands of years. Yet, the Carnegies have left the most recent legacy on the island. The Land and Legacy Tour takes visitors to the top half of the island to see buildings and other historic locations.

You can see these places on your own if you’re willing to backpack from the ferry landing or if you have your own boat. Now the park service takes visitors in a van on an all-day interpretive trip. Better make reservations.

The history of the island can be found on the park website or in Untamed, Will Harlan’s book. The ranger said that visitors ask about three things: horses, the Kennedy wedding and now, Carol R., the subject of Untamed.

Feral horses graze everywhere. See above.

20150104CUISplumorchard 018AWe spent the most time in and around Plum Orchard Manor, a house built for one of Thomas and Lucy Carnegie’s children. Ranger Ron Crawford, took us up and down and all around the house. It had the feel of a poor man’s Biltmore Estate. Hah! Still huge.

I need to remember that the Carnegies and others lived on Cumberland Island, maybe four months out of the year. The temperature is in the 70s now and very comfortable. Not so in the summer.

20150104CUISliveoakLenny 027AThe live oaks around the house are huge. Here’s Lenny, adding a little scale to a live oak on the property. He’s completey dwarfed by one tree.

The ride to the top of the island is slow. The road is minimally maintained because the land on either side of the road has been declared a Wilderness Area. If the road had also been in the Wilderness, the park couldn’t do these tours. For some reason, the public hasn’t yet caught on that these tours are available. The park also makes the tour sound very rigorous, which scares many people away. Since national parks can’t advertise in the traditional way, it depends on its website and word of mouth.

20150104CUISAAchurch 029AThe last stop is in the Settlement, where African Americans lived from the 1890s. Now the only structure that’s maintained by the park is the First African Baptist Church, which was built in 1893 and rebuilt in 1937.

John Kennedy and Carolyn Bessette were married in the church in 1996. The site was chosen because it was out of the limelight. The church is next to Carol R.’s compound. See yesterday’s blog.

Cumberland island National Seashore may be the only Southeastern national park that interprets the gilded age. The South was so devastated by the  Civil War that the only gilded age homes were owned by Northerners. All together, a fascinating place.





Cumberland Island – Untamed

I’m at Cumberland Island National Seashore in southern Georgia (the U.S. state, not the country) for  my second visit. I visited Cumberland Island a few years ago and saw the southern part of the island. But now the Park Service is offering Land and Legacy Tours to the upper part of the island.


What a coincidence! I just finished “The book”, Untamed by Will Harlan, about Carol Ruckdeschel, an amateur biologist and the only person who lives on the island full-time. For years, Carol has fought to keep the island wild and the turtle safe from boats. Harlan wrote a wonderful book.

We got to St. Mary. GA, at 4 pm, just as the visitor center was closing. I ran up the steps to get my major question answered. Was the park bookstore selling Untamed? It wasn’t on the shelf. I asked the ranger. “No, we don’t sell it”.

“Do you know why?”

He looked at me hard. “We just don’t.” He closed the visitor center. Any book sold in a park visitor center must be approved by a committee of rangers.

We walked through the historic downtown and found Once upon a Bookseller, an independent bookstore. First it’s amazing that such a small town has a bookstore. They were selling Untamed, as one of many books on Cumberland Island.

Carol R.'s house on Cumberland Island
Carol R.’s house on Cumberland Island

Today, on the Land and Legacy Tour, we went to the top of Cumberland Island. We stopped right in front of Carol’s house. What a coincidence.

What is a Land and Legacy Tour and what do you see? Stay tuned.