Tuesday, October 6, 2015

2015 Little St. Simons Island - Protection Via Conservation Easement

All of LSSI is now under conservation easement!
Coastal Georgia is home to barrier islands, vast spartina marshes and pristine beaches. Just an hour south of Savannah is a stretch known as the Golden Isles that includes Jekyll Island, St. Simons Island and Sea Island, with Little St. Simons Island found at the northern end of the range. As barrier islands go, the best birding, fishing and beachcombing tends to be located at hard-to-reach places … and thank goodness for that. It took a boat ride, a pickup truck and a 30-minute bike ride to reach the northern tip of Little St. Simon’s Island; a bald eagle resting on the beach there instantly confirmed my suspicions this was a special place.
This island also has a storied history for sporting types. The Berolzheimer family from New York purchased Little St. Simon’s Island (LSSI) in 1921 believing that the red cedar trees found there would be fodder for their Eagle Pencil Company. But the cedars proved too twisted and contorted from the constant wind found along the coast, and the island became a private hunting retreat for Berolzheimer and many prominent figures from New York. They fashioned a flag of ducks flying over a running deer to signify the grand adventures found there, and an updated version of that design remains today.

A Hampton River boat ride is the only way to access LSSI
Not until 1979 was the public invited to come and stay at the Lodge on LSSI, and limited tourism began to play a role in the preservation process. That’s because a pair of frequent guests grew to love the island, leading to Henry and Wendy Paulson becoming part owners of LSSI in 2003. Mr. Paulson served as the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury from 2006 – 2009, and Mrs. Paulson is been a lifelong birdwatcher and conservation leader. In May of 2015, they donated a conservation easement to The Nature Conservancy for the 11,333-acres at Little St. Simons Island.

 During my Labor Day visit to LSSI the Paulson family was wrapping up their holiday weekend visit and getting ready to fly back to Chicago. I can report that they were friendly and effusive about the opportunity to conserve the island, telling me that had always hoped for this outcome. My first ever visit to LSSI revealed that meals are served family style, and the Paulson family broke bread with other guests because that is simply the norm on this island, where Mother Nature is the focus.
My first wildlife sighting at LSSI - Great Egret with neck tucked
Scott Greene is the General Manager at LSSI, a Select Registry Property which has garnered many accolades from the travel sector. “This island has been lovingly cared for over the last 100 years and it remains in a natural state,” said Greene. “This conservation easement guarantees that what is here now is going to become even more special in the future. We have a mosaic of habitat that includes a mature maritime forest, a sprawling spartina marsh and mud flats, plus seven-miles of untouched front beach.”

I met owners Henry and Wendy Paulson 
The island offers a variety of lodging options, but total occupancy is about 30 people. I stayed in the River Lodge that houses four guest quarters and a community area. All meals are served just a few steps down the boardwalk at the Hunting Lodge, where the culinary selection and quality were outstanding. Whether your plans are to rent the entire island or just reserve a private cabin, there is too much to experience in just one visit, which is why I suspect that many visitors return again and again to explore another niche of the island. To learn more visit the Internet at www.LittleStSimonsIsland.com.

To read the feature article in the newspaper click on Charleston Mercury.

To view more blog entries from LSSI click on Lush Landscape - Keeping It Natural - Surf Fishing

To view past blog entries about ecotourism click Grosse Savanne, La.

To view past blog entries about birdwatching click Hooded Warbler

To view past blog entries with my Field Notes and Photos click September 2015

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