HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC (WTOC) - Outside consultants gave recommendations to the community Monday night to preserve and protect the island’s Gullah Geechee culture and neighborhoods.
More than 50 locals gathered for the meeting. Residents say they do not want just another study to put on the bookshelf again. They want a study they can move forward with and implement.
“I’m hoping that this study will be different,” said Louise Cohen, Founder of the HHI Gullah Museum. “I’m hoping that we can look back and say we did something and we accomplished something, and look where we are today.”
After eight months of research and meetings, the hired consultants are suggesting steps they believe Hilton Head Island needs to take to both protect and preserve the historic Gullah community - such as designating a historic Gullah neighborhood conservation district and establishing student programs and fundraising efforts.
“As I read the Ward 1 master plan, I see the name ‘Alexander Brown’ on it, but it’s not mine. It’s my father’s,” said Alexander Brown, Chairman, HHI Planning Commission.
As his father’s name is signed on one of the first of these studies, Brown wants to continue his fight for their history. He believes the Gullah- Geechee Land and Cultural Preservation Task Force, which came about in 2017, has made significant strides, including the adding of an town paid position to help with their cause.
“This is my first experience going through this, but of course, the issues have not changed just the characters around the table.”
Town officials said they are just a few weeks away from officially hiring the historic neighborhood’s preservation administrator.
“Tonight’s not the last final say so of things," stresses Jayme Lopko, a senior planner with Hilton Head. "It is the introduction of the recommendations. We really want people to think about them and is it really going to help them. Is it something that will preserve the culture? Is it something that will help the Gullah be able to use their land in ways that they would like to and give us the feedback.”
The meeting was held in the Palmetto Electric community room.