Where nature and culture meet
McIntosh County is the quintessential coastal Georgia place. With a rich and complex tradition of Native American, European, early American, and African American history, residents of McIntosh have developed a deep relationship with nature and wildlife for generations. Books like Drifting into Darien, Making Gullah, and Praying for Sheetrock describe a vast landscape of marshes and rivers speckled with shrimp boats and wildlife, and a community of people that is sustained by the landscape and the resources it provides.
Despite this deep connection to the environment, the community struggles. For generations, deep poverty fed by political corruption have resulted in a struggling economy and an inability for many to envision a future for the county that honors and commemorates past traditions and provides opportunities for all residents to build wealth and thrive.
McIntosh County is a wonder of our coast—home to Butler Island and the Altamaha Wildlife Management Area and Sapelo Island.
The Fight for Land
You may have never had to think about land acquisition and retention. But what if you didn’t have the money to stay on your land because property taxes were rising because of adjacent properties? Or what if your decision to keep or sell your late grandmother’s home meant not only the loss of a house of memories but also access to your ancestral stomping grounds? What if your voice was ignored in the conversation about your own community’s future because of discriminatory, racially biased systems? Suddenly, you’re thinking about land a lot.
Land is more than earth. Land is a protector and container of heritage. It enables the accumulation of generational wealth. It can be a powerful tool of anti-racist empowerment—or unjust systemic disenfranchisement.
We are committed to working to ensure McIntosh’s rich historical, cultural, and natural wonders are honored in future planning decisions.
Hogg Hummock Community
The relationship between Sapelo Island “descendants”—the descendants of West African enslaved peoples—and government entities operating on the island is long-lasting and complicated. Many descendants have worked (and still work) for the State of Georgia in some capacity and the public services on the island are facilitated by the county and state in tandem. The residents of Sapelo have been self-sufficient in many ways—having their own library, a corner store, and, in the past, a school and midwifery services—but their ties with the mainland are still important.
Unfortunately, these ties are not always honored. Most recently, the county began construction on Hogg Hummock’s community center, which has long needed repairing. Funding for the project came with a promise to install an on-island clinic with a doctor for the residents. Since construction began, there has been no indication of coming through on this promise.
Rezoning & Docks
When you live on an island, the water surrounding you is just as important as the land on which you stand. The tidal creeks, beaches, and marshes lining Sapelo Island are an integral part of the residents’ heritage, history, and present lived reality. They are the access points for fishing, crabbing, and seining—and anchor points for the stories passed down through generations.
There is currently a proposal by a private landowner on Sapelo Island to build a dock adjacent to the historic Hog Hummock community. If approved, this would set a precedent for more construction that would irrevocably alter the environmental and cultural landscape of Sapelo Island. An ecosystem—one that encompasses marsh grasses, wildlife, African American history, and the future of Sapelo’s people—hangs in the balance.
Death by 1,000 cuts
Last year, the Department of Natural Resources considered selling a portion of Butler Island, a property that is now owned by the people of Georgia and the site where more than 600 enslaved Africans once lived, for $1 to an entity that wanted to make the property a distillery. Thanks to the massive public outcry, the bill that would have enabled this sale failed to pass.
Only by having a holistic understanding of the history of places like Butler Island can we work toward an accurately-framed legacy and equitable future. We are actively partnering with the Coalition to Save Butler Island.
Partners & Organizations to know
“McIntosh County is one of our most important coastal treasures. OHM is committed to working with our partners to ensure its rich historical, cultural, and natural wonders are honored in future planning decisions.”
Please contact Megan Desrosiers, OHM President/CEO, to learn more about our work in McIntosh County.