A look back at Hilton Head's past sheds light on how its beauty was protected

info@islandpacket.comOctober 13, 2013 

A sign of climate change? This summertime flowering Ginger officially flowered in October.


After all these years.

Hilton Head Island's 350/30 celebration -- a weeklong commemoration of both the island's founding and its discovery -- took place indoors and out in near perfect weather. It kicked off at Town Hall when a standing room only crowd heard the island's history beginning with the early '70s. Photos of men -- and one or two of women -- taken in those early days were shown on a large screen.

Those of us present who contributed in some small -- or large -- way to the government's formation well remember the committee meetings held the summer of 1982; I met with the environmental committee under the chairmanship of the Rev. John Miller.

I've no idea how much clout we had, if any, but it was great to hear from our mayor and others who spoke on Monday about the amount of land that's been set aside for its natural beauty and recreational uses.

Sometimes I think we should be glad for those "Stack-a-Shacks" that woke us all up to what could happen to our beautiful island if we did not form a regulated government.

Consider the concerns of the time:

"Now is the year of the Bulldozer, the decade to come, the era of churned earth. The new age is only three weeks old and already the interlude has seen the island's only cypress swamp in danger, a rare shrubland draglined out of existence, and several chunks hacked out of the corpus of the Sea Pines Forest Preserve." -- Nancy Cathcart, The Island Packet, Jan. 22, 1980

"One of the best places to find native plants is beside the highway to Savannah or Beaufort. I still find some left along the roadways on the island. So much heavy mowing and herbicide spraying is being done that we will soon lose many of our native flowers. There must be a better way." -- Alva Cunningham, former garden columnist, The Island Packet, July 9, 1981

"Whooping Crane Pond, Hilton Head's only surviving ecosystem worthy of being called a rookery, waits in a serene static limbo. The future of Whooping Crane Pond is pondered by those who would help it survive." -- Tom Smith, The Island Packet, June 1986

And finally:

"Financial security for the future and perpetual operation of Whooping Crane Pond Conservancy was assured at the annual meeting of the Stewardship Committee Tuesday at Spring Lake Pavillion. Committee chairman Betty McDonald announced that if we could only stabilize the water level the rookery would probably grow. She quoted John Coke of the South Carolina Wildlife and Marine Resources as saying 'Whooping Crane Pond is very important to the Hilton Head area and to Beaufort County' and she said there were only two other wild bird rookeries in the county." -- Katie Callahan, The Island Packet, summer of 1985

I served on the the Whooping Crane Committee, along with McDonald, Mary Allred, George Barber, Sis and Todd Ballentine, Nancy and Bob Ciehanski, John Evans, Betty Goetschuis, Don Grush, Louise LaCross, Beanie Newhall, and Mike Williams.

At a September 1987 meeting of the committee, Todd Ballantine suggested that we pay attention to important roles and values, education, water preservation, flood control, wildlife preservation, birds, pollution control, and esthetics.

We're trying, Todd. The 38 year-old Island Beautification Committee and the 30 year-old Island Land Trust meet once a month. This month's discussions will include the scenic entrance to the island and the new welcome sign. And, as always at the beautification committee meeting, we will meet with and give thanks to the hard working men and women who keep our island clean and beautiful.

Sixty-year master gardener and environmentalist Betsy Jukofsky has spent three decades on Hilton Head Island learning the peculiarities of Coastal Lowcountry gardening.

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