December 5, 2013 Sections
The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
CHARLESTON, S.C. - Signs will soon be going up directing visitors to sites important to the culture of slave descendants along the sea islands of the Southeast.
The chairman of the Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor Commission, Ron Daise, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that 54 highway directional signs are being distributed to counties in the corridor reaching from near Jacksonville, N.C., down the coast to south of Jacksonville, Fla.
The culture, known as Gullah in the Carolinas and Geechee in Georgia and Florida, survived for decades because of the isolation of the area's sea islands. Now, that culture is threatened by rapid coastal development.
Daise said the commission is asking that the highway signs — two are being provided for each county in the corridor — be placed either on U.S. 17, the main road through the corridor, or along Florida Route A1A that parallels the coast on the corridor's southern end.
He said he expects they will be put up next month, and the counties can arrange to buy more.
"We are also going to have banners designating the corridor at National Park Service sites and also at U.S. Fish and Wildlife sites — governmental agencies that have been partnering with the corridor," said Daise, perhaps best known as host, with his wife, Natalie, of the children's television show "Gullah Gullah Island" in the 1990s.
"They will give people an expectation," he said. "We have heard there are a number of national park sites, for instance, where there is some information but people ask, 'What is the Gullah Geechee culture?'"
The commission will also have new brochures on the corridor available at those locations next month.
The agency has asked the governors of all four states to declare next month Gullah Geechee Heritage month to draw attention to the corridor. The governors of three are signing proclamations, and the commission expects to hear shortly from Florida, Daise said.
The 272-page management plan for the corridor was more than a dozen years in the making and received final approval from the U.S. Department of the Interior in May.
The management plan focuses on educating people about the culture, documenting sites important to it and developing economic opportunities for those who live there. In developing the plan, public meetings were held in all four states and more than 1,000 sites significant to the culture were identified.