For the past 8 years, the Georgia Conservancy has led one of the largest volunteer groups on Cumberland Island National Seashore during the Martin Luther King Weekend. This year, 75 volunteers joined us for one of the most productive and impactful days of service the Georgia Conservancy has hosted on Cumberland!
A lot of logistics go into making a service weekend like this happen, especially in such an isolated location. The group was due to arrive Friday afternoon, so Georgia Conservancy Stewardship Manager Ben Fowler, his cousin Marshall, GC member Andre Turner, and Hope Oldham from REI headed down Thursday morning with the Conservancy’s trailer so we could begin setting up. Hauling tents, coolers of shrimp, bags of oysters, we could all tell it was going to be a fun weekend! Half of the group would be staying on the south end to work on service projects around Dungeness while the other half would be staying at Hunt Camp to work on trail restoration projects in the wilderness.
Friday morning, there was a lot of excitement in the cold, windy air as the group arrived on the NPS Loggerhead and Macoma boats. When all 75 volunteers docked at Dungeness, we offloaded gear, had volunteers take a scenic walk around the ruins, then met up at the Cook House to discuss the itinerary for the weekend. After the (kinda) brief introductions, we headed up to Hunt Camp with our 38 volunteers for a delicious chili dinner and campfire to kick of the weekend.
Saturday was our full day of service, and it was incredible what we accomplished. The Hunt Camp group divided into four teams. Jim from the NPS, experienced Cumberland Island volunteer Desi Fowler and Georgia Conservancy Communications Director Brian Foster took ten volunteers to Tar Kiln trail to clear, improve signage, and disassemble three old hog traps that we had found here. Ben Fowler took a group of ten up Bunkley Trail to tackle thick walls of shrubs, vines, and palmettos down a narrow corridor of trail. I took another group of ten down Kings Bottom Trail and up to Ashley Pond Trail working on trail restoration and hauling out signage. Lawrence took four other volunteers around Ashely Pond, Rayfield, Kings Bottom, and Table Point who carried in new signposts, removed old signage, and resigned areas where hikers were known to get lost. Their group was able to fix this along with also removing an old hog trap from Table Point Trail.
Meanwhile on the South End, groups were busy clearing Parallel Trail, cleaning around Dungeness, and cleaning Park Staff Buildings and the First African Baptist Church. The Dungeness group filled up the dump truck five times with all the debris they cleared from around the fields!
That night at Hunt Camp, we cooked up seafood, ate a delicious pasta, and rested our sore muscles around the camp fire. We then ventured over to the Plum Orchard dock to star gaze.
Since the moon wasn’t out, we were able to see bioluminescence in the water when we swished our hands around. It looks like dancing fireflies in the water, and we were mesmerized!
Sunday morning, we packed up camp and headed south to meet up with the other group for a big breakfast all together. We shared stories with each other, then many people walked around Dungeness or to the beach before boarding the boats for departure. It was so incredible to see all that this group accomplished, and hear back about how much fun everyone had! I was excited to see many familiar faces and make so many new friendships.