Gullah Geechee plan to be unveiled Friday
Friday morning, the public will get its first look at the National Park Service’s plan to preserve and promote the Gullah Geechee heritage found along the Southeastern U.S. coast.
Want to go?
A public preview of the The Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor Management Plan is set for 10 a.m. Friday at the Mount Pleasant Waterworks Building, 1619 Rifle Range Road in Mount Pleasant.
The Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor Commission will meet at the same site at 1:45 p.m. A Sweetgrass Festival will be from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday at Mount Pleasant’s Waterfront Memorial Park. All events are free and open to the public.
Those involved hope it will encourage a new generation to learn about and safeguard the language, crafts and lands that define this unique culture created by slaves and their descendants.
This week’s preview — the full plan won’t be posted online until July —caps a years-long effort by the National Park Service to engage Gullah Geechee communities about managing the changes sure to come.
Mike Allen of the National Park Service said the document recognizes that Gullah Geechee culture is a critical piece of the American experience — one present in a roughly 100-mile-wide corridor from Cape Fear, N.C., to St. Augustine, Fla.
“We’re blessed to live where it existed in the past and exists in the present,” he said. “It’s incumbent on us as residents in the corridor to make sure it’s viable in the future.”
The study’s roots began in 2000, when the Park Service did a study of Gullah cultural resources along the coast. In 2004, the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed the Gullah Geechee coast on its 11 most-endangered list.
The Trust said the greatest threat was development, as once-isolated coastal islands became popular spots for new homes, resorts and stores.
Allen said retaining land where Gullah Geechee communities exist remains a top concern as the commission turns its attention to putting the plan into place. “That may be our early focus,” he said.
But the plan also makes clear that the federal government will not tackle this issue by itself.
The Gullah Geechee Heritage Commission, whose members come from coastal communities, must find governmental and business partners to put the plan’s ideas into place, commission Chair-Elect Ron Daise said.
“I think there’s been a misunderstanding that the commission has millions of dollars to dole out to those interested organizations and individuals,” he said. “That is not the case.”
The commission has received about $148,000 a year — and most all of that has gone toward the plan. Daise said the plan hopefully will attract partners — and their dollars.
“They’ve been waiting to know what we’re about,” he said. “It’s up to our potential partners to join us and inform us how they can assist in development of specific programs.”
Daise added that he predicts the public will be very pleased with the recommendations for education, economic development and preservation.
“It is a document written by Gullah Geechee people for Gullah Geechee people,” he said. “It doesn’t have the tone of a text written by an outsider.”
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.