(September 9, 2019) — The Cumberland Island National Seashore has been closed for over a week (since the afternoon of Aug. 31st). Hurricane Dorian had prompted an evacuation of all visitors at the National Seashore. The National Park Service (NPS) continues to assess damage and clean up debris on Georgia’s largest barrier island.
Dock Damage At Sea Camp & Dungeness
A post-hurricane news update by Cumberland Island National Seashore (the day after Dorian passed by here out to sea at the Florida-Georgia border), indicated some dock damage had occurred.
“The initial assessment of the island revealed damage to our Sea Camp and Dungeness docks. We will be getting these inspected as soon as possible to see what it will take to fix them as quickly as possible. A full assessment of the island is pending. The park will be closed until assessments are complete and deemed safe for visitors. “Cumberland Island National Seashore Facebook post 9/5/2019
Funds To Fix Docks
Some very good news, however, came the same day, September 5, 2019. U.S. Congressman, “Buddy Carter” (Georgia 1st District), announced that a $3.5 million-plus federal grant had been awarded to repair Cumberland Island National Seashore docks. (This grant was awarded for fixing previous damage that was actually caused by a prior hurricane, Irma, in 2017). Read more about federal grant further below.
No Private Boat Docking
A follow-up news release on September 7, 2019 stated:
“Due to damage to docks and limited space, private boaters will not be allowed access to island docks. Repairs to Sea Camp dock to allow ferry access is a park priority and is being remedied immediately. The timeline for these repairs is not confirmed at this time.”Cumberland Island National Seashore, Website & Facebook post 9/7/2019
UPDATE: Private boaters can once again dock, see past article with further info about docking options at Cumberland Island National Seashore.
According to the National Park Service, all camping reservations have been cancelled through 9/14/2019. Campers with reservations beginning after September 14th will be updated on the status of their reservations via email. Those with ferry reservations must call the ferry concessioner at 877-860-6787 to arrange a transfer of a reservation or a refund.
Debris Clean Up Effort
A “special team” from the National Park Service Eastern Incident Management (EIM) program, a 10-person crew, was scheduled to arrive on Cumberland Island Sept. 8th to assist in cleaning up the campgrounds and the most frequently visited areas of the park.
Gary Ingram, the National Seashore’s superintendent stated in a news release:
“I am thankful that no visitors, residents, or employees were injured and no serious damage occurred to our historic buildings. We will make every effort to get the park open as soon as possible. We are thankful to our partners and the community for their support and understanding as we work diligently to reopen.”Park Superintendent, Gary Ingram, Sept. 7, 2019
Battered By Matthew, Irma, Dorian
While not direct hits, three hurricanes have now impacted the Florida-Georgia coastal area since October 2016. First was Hurricane Matthew on October 7, 2016 (that damaged the arrival docks at both Dungeness and Sea Camp on Cumberland Island). The Sea Camp dock was repaired allowing ferry service to resume (after three weeks) on October 28, 2016 (via one dock only, at Sea Camp). Across the river on neighboring Amelia Island, Matthew also severely damaged the Fernandina Harbor Marina. Work has been underway this year in 2019, to get Fernandina’s city marina rebuilt. This included the removal of old docks, dredging, and installing new docks in the south basin. The new southern attenuator performed well during Dorian, according to Fernandina Beach city officials. However, the already-damaged northern attenuator gangway reportedly needs repair due to Dorian, as well as the north side of the boardwalk near the restaurant located at the marina waterfront (Brett’s).
Next Came Hurricane Irma
Just eleven months after Matthew, along came Hurricane Irma Sept. 10-11, 2017. The Dungeness dock, damaged by Hurricane Matthew, was further damaged by Irma. Taking a wallop on the mainland, the St. Marys, GA marina was destroyed. This included the St. Marys departure dock utilized for the National Park ferry concessioner to transport visitors to Cumberland Island.
Cumberland Island National Seashore visitation was closed for two months after Irma (reopening on November 12, 2017). An alternative departure dock in St. Marys was put into use, called “the Gateway.” (Pictured below, it was formerly the Gilman boathouse property).
$3.5 Million-Plus Grant To Repair Cumberland Island National Seashore Boat Docks
The timing of this federal grant, awarded to help repair damages from natural disasters, seems a lucky coincidence, announced the day after Dorian. According to a press release issued by U.S. Representative Carter, Georgia 1st District:
“Congressman Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-Ga.) today announced a United States Department of Transportation grant to repair three public boat docks on the Cumberland Island National Seashore. The $3,505,189 grant will repair damages to the docks. . .“Washington, September 5, 2019 — Congressman Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-Ga.)
Park Status Update
The NPS announced 9/13/2019 that Cumberland Island National Seashore “will resume normal operations beginning Monday, September 16th, 2019. All Cumberland Island Ferry and camping reservations will be honored. The ferry will resume its regular operating schedule.”
Cumberland Island is a captivating place to visit. It’s an outstanding day-cation for local area residents (and travelers visiting our coastal region here at the Florida-Georgia border).