CHARLESTON, S.C. — A plan a dozen years in the making to preserve the culture of slave descendants in four southeastern states went out for public comment on Wednesday.
The plan was developed by the federal Gullah-Geechee Heritage Corridor Commission and includes recommendations for preserving the culture along the coast reaching from southeastern North Carolina to northern Florida.
The culture is known as Gullah in the Carolinas and Geechee in Georgia and Florida. In past years it survived in many areas untouched because of the isolation of the sea islands.
But now the culture and many sites important to it are threatened by coastal development. The plan focuses on educating people about the culture, documenting sites important to it and developing economic opportunities for those in the corridor. In developing the plan, public meetings were held in all four states and more than 1,000 significant sites were identified.
The 272-page plan, along with a CD of appendices, became available in libraries throughout the corridor on Wednesday. The commission is taking public comment through Aug. 17.
Commission Chairman Ron Daise, perhaps best known as host, with his wife Natalie, of the children’s television show Gullah Gullah Island in the 1990s, said the panel is especially interested in getting comments from young people on the plan.
“After all, the plans voiced in this document very soon will sustain their culture and that of their descendants,” he said.
The management plan must be approved by the Secretary of the Interior for federal resources to be devoted to the effort. The commission is also working to attract private partnerships to preserve the culture.
The corridor effort began in 2000 when U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the first black congressman from South Carolina since Reconstruction, asked for a study of Gullah resources. The corridor was approved by Congress in 2006 and then the work on developing the management plan began in earnest.
The commission is taking public comments on the plan at either the National Park Service planning site http://parkplanning.nps.gov/guge or by writing the commission at 1214 Middle Street, Sullivans Island, S.C. 29482.
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