Landfill Island

The name of the giant swamp in the southeast corner of Georgia, Okefenokee, is generally interpreted to mean “land of trembling earth” because of the unstable substrate upon which the watery woodlands and marshes rest. Thousands of years of accumulated muck. Further north, that same muck is mostly submerged under tidal waters and marshes from which islands of swampland rise as the so-called Golden Isles. Some have even captured enough sand to reach a height of twenty feet above the sea. The ground water table can be found at about five and at seven feet pine trees grow just fine.

On Saint Simons, the most populated of the Golden Isles, if you exclude the Brunswick Peninsula, it has been generally understood that some roads were built by dumping tree stumps and logs and covering them with dirt. South Harrington Road, laid out in the late ‘40s, is a prime example. But, that this building technique might account for the widespread deterioration of so-called infrastructure (in the Sea Palms subdivision, for example)  has not been obvious to most of us.

Certainly, the conversion of a dump in the woodlands into a subdivision known as “Captain’s Cove” by shoving the detritus into mounds and covering them with dirt came as a surprise.

While the usual explanation for the widespread ditching of the western half of Glynn County is that draining the land was necessary to grow pines for pulp and, more recently, fuel pellets, that is likely a half truth. Trees, including pines, we can see, grow just fine in swampland. Where difficulties arise is in using machines to harvest them. Machines tend to get stuck in the muck.

Which may account for the project at Marsh’s Edge, where about thirteen acres of canopy  have apparently been buried as detritus under a couple of feet of dirt. Landfilling on site. Never mind that to get approval for this project from the Island Planning Commission the Frederica Baptist Church application touted the removal of just seven trees.

Swamp site north of the Oglethorpe Elementary School, which is pictured on the left

Landfilling in progress.

Of course it is not entirely the proponents of Frederica Baptist project’s fault that Glynn County officials refuse to recognize that anything lying at six feet or less above sea level is a swamp and ought to be left alone to grow more trees sucking carbon out of the air.

Who knew that “drain the swamp” is a euphemism for destructive development?

And then there is the fact that the highest land in that part of Saint Simons has been allocated for a riding stable. Another example of great land use planning!


Below you will find photos James Holland took a few days ago. The site plan for this new church was approved unanimously by the IPC at their 13 December 2017 meeting after only one person spoke in favor and then Hugh Bourque, George Ragsdale, Lisa Norton, and I “were present to speak in opposition, ask questions, and/or express concerns” according to the minutes for that meeting.

If you would like to see the site plan that was approved along with the staff report and other documents, simply go to the Glynn County Calendar for 13 December 2017 and find the agenda for the IPC meeting, then click on the “REPORT” for that item. One interesting thing about the site plan is that only seven trees were marked as “to be removed” and that it’s clear from the tax card image for this thirteen acre parcel (04-13023) that all but about two acres was completely forested until recently.

Nor was there any indication in the application or the site plan that they would have to bring in thousands of cubic yards of fill to elevate the wet and low-lying portion of the site before putting in three large buildings and parking for hundreds of cars.

What can be done about this mess? Not much, other than pray for forgiveness for those who knew not what they were doing as well as for those who did know.