Funding delayed for Gullah-Geechee history corridor

November 30, 2007 

BEAUFORT -- While Beaufort's Gullah artists and historians wait for Congress to free up $1 million to develop the Gullah-Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, they're lucky the four-state preservation project was proposed before the National Park Service asked for a corridor moratorium.

The Gullah-Geechee trail's money is tied up until President Bush and Congress finish the 2008 federal appropriations bill.

If the bill passes, the corridor's 15 commissioners can begin doling out grants to build museums, restore historical sites, create art and throw events celebrating Gullah culture.

The trail, meant to attract tourism and preserve fading Gullah traditions, cuts a swath from North Carolina to Florida, historically home to Gullah and Geechee people, whose culture is a blend of African, Carribean and European influences.

"It's just a matter of waiting until the funding is available," said Ronald Daise, a Gullah artist and corridor commissioner from Beaufort. "The commission itself can do nothing until the money is there."

Though the Gullah-Geechee trail is through the door, the park service is threatening to block the new heritage corridors.

The agency wants a closer relationship with the local programs and clearer rules on funding from the federal government.

"The lack of finances is not going to stop us from moving forward," said Michael Allen, coordinator for the Gullah-Geechee corridor and a park service educational specialist at the Charles Pinckney Historic Site.

Allen said he's doing the "legwork that will prepare us for the future," including creating a Web site, answering questions from people interested in the corridor and pushing for state money in case the federal grant falls through.

He encouraged residents to call their Congress members to ensure the money is approved.

But the delays "don't cause me any heartburn," Allen said. "When Congress does what it needs to do, and the funds are there, we can do many more things."

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