The Gullah/Geechee Heritage Corridor Commission has identified hundreds of historical sites along the Southeast coast.

It also has identified many other intangible cultural assets that reflect the unique language, crafts and cooking that developed here as African, Caribbean and European cultures mixed.

Now the commission is trying to figure out how to implement and manage this new heritage area.

Commissioners met Thursday in Charleston to update each other on their progress and discuss alternatives for the 400-mile corridor.

The National Park Service is helping develop a master plan for the heritage area -- stretching from southern North Carolina, across South Carolina and Georgia to northern Florida -- and that work could be wrapped up by fall 2011.

Corridor coordinator Michael Allen noted the Park Service consulted corridor officials on the possible creation of a new national park site in Beaufort that would tell the story of Reconstruction.

Meanwhile, the S.C. Department of Transportation has agreed to work with the commission -- and the three other states -- on highway signs welcoming motorists to the corridor.

"So when people enter into the corridor, at least they'll know where they are," Allen said.

Commissioners heard reports about how each of the four states is doing, and they re-elected Emory Campbell as chairman.

"We've got a lot of potential partners out there to help us preserve Gullah culture," Campbell said, "but the challenge is great."

Those working to preserve and promote Gullah Culture realize they are fighting time, as coastal development continues to affect historic black communities. "As we sit here, bulldozers are going," he said. "Big money is being offered."

Ralph Johnson, a commissioner from Florida, suggested the commission invite first lady Michelle Obama to serve as an honorary member. Her ancestors lived on Friendfield, a plantation outside Georgetown.

"We want to take advantage of this opportunity to show there are very significant people who have Gullah Geechee ancestry," Johnson said.