Morris Island - let's take heart

Historic Morris Island, in Charleston's harbor, is a shadow of its Civil War self. Most of it has washed away. It could be gone entirely in the near future.

Which makes it an odd candidate for housing development. But developers are always, everywhere applying the cold logic of the marketplace to all things in all places at all times. Island set to wash away? Buyers matter, not nature, nor common sense, nor culture.

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley is now on the case. He says, "We don't have anything yet." But I am encouraged.

Let me put that in good news/ bad news format. It is a mistake to put too much faith in politicians, but I have enormous confidence in Joe Riley. See here. And here. And here. I believe the island will be saved. Our team is headed by an old school mayor with an impeccable record in saving properties .... and a PhD in art history. Put your chips down and double your Riley bets.

On the other hand, the Civil War Preservation Trust is in this. The Civil War part of that title means that areas of interest to Civil War buffs are targeted to be "saved" by this particular trust. You are welcome to think "saved" means saved. But the areas are not saved for buffs but for various kinds of environmentalists and private property owners. Saved means not built on, whether or not you can ever visit the place. And recently, at Chancellorsville, CWPT expanded its definition of "saved" to also mean, battlefield land that stuff does get built on. It's really the most practical and useful definition of "saved" imaginable.

Now be aware that this trust considers any property from which Civil War tourists are totally and absolutely prohibited as being totally and absolutely "saved." They may as well be an Argentine pampas conservancy as far as the average ACW tourist is concerned, but the press likes them, they raise a lot of dough, and they make wonderful blog fodder.

Not that Joe Riley holds a Civil War brief either. Morris Island will be saved for the ducks, for tiny groups of specially permissioned bird watchers, for marine bioligists, and for uniformed civil service rangers of various types.

It will not be saved for the sake of Civil War history but CWPT will get a nice little publicity boost from Joe Riley's expert work. We'll all congratulate ourselves on preserving a site we can never visit and we'll send in extra donations with a cheery, "Keep up the good work, CWPT!"

Indeed, we will, for we are preservation minded.

A few thoughts from Riley: "“People have to be in places we own together. Places where we have eye contact, elbow contact, a sense of sharing, a sense of citizenship." He was talking about downtowns. Maybe it applies to Morris Island too. Tourist sandals pounding the ground.

Here's hoping.