Rising reputation of Cumberland Island Nationwide Seashore, which shimmers within the Atlantic on Georgia’s largest barrier island, has pushed the Nationwide Park Service there to craft a plan to, it hopes, higher handle that visitation.
The company there has prolonged the general public remark interval on their Customer Use Administration Plan by December 30, offering events extra time to evaluate a doc that, if accepted, considerably evolves the seashore’s almost four-decades outdated common administration plan.
Forty years in the past the park was envisioned as “a outstanding seashore space of seaside dunes, forests and uplands, and marsh. The excellent seashores are enhanced by clean, light, and predictable surf. Whereas these seashores present wonderful alternatives for swimming, sunbathing, fishing, and beachcombing, different pure values on the island are conducive to pursuits resembling climbing, tenting, backpacking, and nature examine.”
On the time, the seashore was attracting roughly 32,000 guests a yr. “Roughly,” as a result of whereas the ferry that introduced guests to the island from close by St. Marys on the mainland had a well-defined restrict [149 passengers per trip, two trips a day], there was no exhausting restrict on non-public boaters reaching the island through ocean- or sound-side seashores.
Come ahead to 2022 and the seashore is seeing greater than twice — 72,240 guests in 2021 — the 1984 visitation degree. Therefore the necessity for an up to date customer administration plan.
However questions have arisen from the plan: How precisely did the Park Service decide each day visitation might greater than double? Ought to the company have drafted a separate wilderness administration plan? Is the plan opposite to the seashore’s 2014 Basis Doc? What steerage, if any, did the seashore’s 1984 Basic Administration Plan present in crafting the customer use plan? Does the seashore’s feral horse herd have to be higher managed?
The present proposal differs from the rules specified by the 1984 GMP, the latest model of that doc, in quite a lot of methods:
- Whereas the 1984 plan says there could be no concessions on the nationwide seashore, 2004 laws that revised the boundaries to the seashore’s official wilderness additionally allowed for “no more than three concessions contracts.” The proposed VUMP requires not solely “on-island cart and bicycle leases,” but additionally would permit for kayak and/or canoe leases, “with the potential for guided rental choices.”
- Whereas the 1984 plan mentioned visitation could be restricted to roughly 300 a day, the brand new proposal would permit for greater than double that to about 700 by elevating the potential for new ferry service to Plum Orchard and making a 1,900-foot-wide “boat touchdown and anchoring space” alongside the southern tip of the seashore. In distinction, the seashore’s Basis Doc warned that “[I]ntense visitation and overcrowding from boaters touchdown on south finish” have been threats to the seashore’s integrity. That doc, which was supposed to “present fundamental steerage for planning and administration choices,” additionally famous that “Rising and unmanaged visitation through non-public boat” was a menace to the idea of an uncrowded setting.
- Whereas the 1984 plan mentioned bicycling wouldn’t be allowed, the proposed VUMP would permit for as much as 100 bikes [including eBikes] per day, and they’d be allowed to be ridden on the seashores between Dungeness and Stafford Seashore Crossing.
- The plan requires higher dispersion of wilderness customers by the creation of two new backcountry campsites, at Toonahowie and Sweetwater Lakes, coupled with the closure of the Yankee Paradise websites.
- Whereas the 1984 plan mentioned the feral horse herd on the island could be managed to make sure a wholesome herd that might “promote, partially, short-grass traits favorable for the nesting of shorebirds,” the VUMP notes the herd not is actively managed. Nevertheless, the Basis Doc famous that the horses pose threats to the surroundings by trampling, overgrazing, and their waste, and recognized the necessity for research to “comprehensively quantify damages and impacts particularly on Cumberland Island, on each pure and cultural assets,” and mentioned there was a necessity for a feral horse administration plan. Extra lately, in 2018, the Pure Useful resource Situation Evaluation performed for Cumberland Island famous that “[F]eral horses signify a novel problem for [Cumberland Island], because the species is just not native to the island and represents a competitor to white-tailed deer for searching forage. Horses have been identified to trample native vegetation, wetlands, and chook nests, and have had dramatic impacts on the marsh habitats of the island resulting from overgrazing.”
All that mentioned, nothing prevents the Nationwide Park Service from altering course down the highway. Certainly, within the VUMP seashore employees keep that higher visitation and any impacts could be dealt with by dispersing the use.
“The park affords alternatives for high-quality assets and experiences, nevertheless, modifications in visitation require considerate decision-making to make sure the specified useful resource situations and customer experiences are being achieved and maintained, in keeping with the needs for which the world was established,” the draft plan states.