leave nothing but footprints

JHmanureOne of our coastal Georgia environmentalists has got a bug about Sea Island Equestrians letting their mounts leave turds in the marsh and on trails through the dunes. Which, of course, is not how the new owners, Sea Island Acquisitions, or the contracted equestrian service provider would describe the “experience.”

Coastal horseback riding with an expert guide is a not-to-be-missed Sea Island experience. The rides are delightful and invigorating, and help to connect guests with Sea Islands beautiful natural surroundings. Experience a profound sense of freedom and adventure. For both skilled and novice riders, Sea Island offers tailored experiences.

But, while I appreciate the environmentalist’s concern with the insult to beaches and the erosion of the dunes, the turds are perhaps just the last straw.

As recently as twenty years ago, Sea Island was a place where Presidents occasionally visited to relax and plant a tree. And, when there were no extraordinary visitors on site, regular tourists in church buses from all over the land could take a drive through the island and admire all the pretty houses and gardens their savings in various banks had helped build and maintain. To my way of thinking, these occasional visitors were the very essence of the best kind of conspicuous consumption (look, but don’t touch). Indeed, I’d go so far as to argue that the “take nothing but pictures; leave nothing but footprints” crowd go to show that Thorstein Veblen was actually wrong in his attacks.

Then, about ten years ago, subsequent to Sea Island being used as the site of one of the G-8 summits, when it was not only shut off to the general public on the causeway, but the press was apparently instructed to identify the location as being in the vicinity of Savannah, 70 miles away, the island was gradually transformed into a gate community, to the point that the day help were provided with parking on an adjacent island and bused in. (Their segregation turned out to be an advantage compared to the Jaguars and Caddys that got flooded when the pumps in the new underground parking garage didn’t work). The horses continue to be stabled off-site, as well. But, that’s always been the case.

The Sea Island Golf course is not on Sea Island, either. No, the venue at which the McGladrey Classic is held each year is actually on St. Simons Island, even though they’ve now constructed a golf course on the north end of Sea Island for the exclusive use of visitors to the hotels. Which probably accounts for why the incoming tide keeps depositing golf balls in my marsh, by the hundreds. Unlike the horse turds, the golf balls don’t dissolve. Neither, for that matter, does the plastic bird shot. The tide, obviously, doesn’t understand “leave nothing but footprints” that my signs demand.

Then there are the clay pigeons. That’s apparently what they are shooting when I hear the “pop, pop, pop” hour after hour. The Sea Island Shooting School has a long tradition, since 1929, so I probably can’t blame Sea Island Acquisitions, the new owners trying to make a go of the recently bankrupt operation. But, it’s a safe bet nobody’s been hired to retrieve the detritus they dispatch over the marshes from the shooting range on the causeway.

The art of clay target shooting is a treasured tradition at Sea Island, and the Sea Island Shooting School ranks among the nation’s best. Facilities include a competitive five-stand sporting clay field, two skeet ranges, and a trap field.

If Mother Nature gets short shrift, it’s because she’s long been regarded as man’s toilet and, at least in this day and age, being a rich man means never having to clean the toilet. A more sophisticated way of saying the same thing would be to reference the long-standing tradition of public cost being transformed into private gain. Which I wouldn’t mind, if the public got just a little benefit, as well. Moving operations off-island in search of more customers since the market for exclusive facilities seems to have peaked (see Amelia Island Plantation bankruptcy) does not seem the answer. The Inn at Sea Island, which is also giving my environmental friend heartburn, marsh insultdoes not sound propitious. For a thousand bucks two people will get to spend two nights and experience an “affordable golf package:”

  • Casual, comfortable accommodations in rooms averaging 400 square feet
  • Complimentary breakfast
  • Complimentary high speed internet service
  • On-site pool and workout room
  • Indoor and outdoor social areas, with fire pit
  • On-site evening bar
  • Complimentary shuttle service to Sea Island amenities

Ah, the shuttle service across the road, when it’s not being used to transport workers, will provide

  • Access to the famed men’s locker room at The Lodge
  • Many Sea Island facilities

So, the restricted access to Sea Island isn’t entirely for purposes of exclusion. It’s a feature, a privilege for the “affordable golf package” buyers to enjoy. And, of course, the “men’s locker” is only for the guys. Segregation is really hard to destroy.

Thank you to James Holland for these turd photos.

Monica Smith

Monica Smith writes Hannah's Blog. Born in Germany, she came to the United States as a child, living first in California, then after an interval in Chile, in New York. Married to a retired professor at the University of Florida, where she lived for 17 years, she moved to St. Simons Island, Georgia, in 1993 and now divides her time between Georgia and New Hampshire. (New Hampshire, she says, is always interesting during a presidential election.) She and her husband have three children and five grandchildren. Ms. Smith says she "learned long ago that I am not a good team player when I got hired at the Library of Congress, fresh out of college with a degree in political science and proficiency in four foreign languages, to 'edit' library cards and informed my supervisor that if she was going to insist I punch the clock exactly on time, my productivity was going to fall from being the highest to being the same as everyone else's. The supervisor opted to assign me to another building where there was no time-clock. After I had the first of our three children, I decided a paycheck wasn't worth the hassle."