'Map Lady' reproducing, updating Beaufort maps for visitors

emoody@beaufortgazette.comJuly 3, 2012 

This map, originally created by artist Tina Fripp in 1988, was purchased by MaryAnn McCracken-Mikell who after making changes has been distributing it around town.

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When MaryAnn McCracken-Mikell married a few years ago, she drew a map by hand to guide her 99 out-of-town guests around Beaufort.

That experience -- and a trip to Vieques, near Puerto Rico, where she and her husband "lived" by a map they found -- inspired her to republish a map of Beaufort, Port Royal and the Sea Islands.

"I moved here in 2009 and loved it here, but it was always difficult to navigate around because it's difficult to figure out north and south," McCracken-Mikell said.

Through word of mouth, she heard about a map local artist Tina Fripp created in 1988. McCracken-Mikell, a registered nurse who jokingly calls herself "The Map Lady," hunted it down and purchased the copyright from Marsha Day of Hilton Head Island. Except for a small printing in 2010, the map hadn't been mass produced and circulated since 2009, she said.

McCracken-Mikell removed the outdated information, added a few new businesses and printed 12,000 copies -- "just to get through the summer."

Eventually, she wants to publish a map that includes more of northern Beaufort, details about Port Royal and the Sea Islands, and more businesses, which pay a few hundred dollars each for advertising on the map. Historic landmarks, nature areas and other tourist stops are listed for free.

McCracken-Mikell hopes to have the maps placed in the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce visitors center. She is passing the maps out to advertisers.

"The artistic nature of this really captures the beauty of here," she said. "... I see this as something you could even hang in every single beach house so people know how to get around."

Fripp is excited about McCracken-Mikell's plans and recently picked up one of the new copies at Moondoggies Cafe in Port Royal. The two have talked about Fripp creating the expanded version, and Fripp is particularly excited about embellishing The Sands beach in Port Royal, updating the bridges and adding some of her matured artistic style.

"It was the first map I did of the area and, I think, possibly one of the first maps that was done in an illustrated, watercolor fashion," she said.

Advertising on the maps and giving them away make sense for businesses like the Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites, where general manager Bob Barnes said the hotel only had Google direction tear sheets to give customers who asked for a map or directions.

The hotel, one of more than a dozen businesses advertising on the map, carried the map before when it was in production but gave away the last copy more than eight months ago. McCracken-Mikell said one hotel was using a dog-eared map from 2005.

"A lot of people come from out of town, and it doesn't matter that Beaufort's small, they still don't know how to get around," Barnes said. "... And this map is like a caricature, so it's fun to look at."

Advertisers receive copies that they can give to customers or sell for a nominal amount, McCracken-Mikell said, but she hopes most will offer them for free.

Eventually, she wants to develop applications for iPads and smartphones so visitors can take a virtual tour of Beaufort before they arrive and carry the map, along with links to area websites, with them in a compact and interactive form. For instance, families of Marine Corps recruits could plan their visits with the app before Family Day and graduation, she said.

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