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Sunday, August 7, 2011 - 8:00pm

Cumberland Island Begins Van Tours

Tour guides will begin shuttling visitors to more remote locations at Cumberland Island National Seashore this week.

The van tours begin seven years after Congress mandated them.

In 2004, Congress removed several areas from the Seashore's designated wilderness and mandated van tours.

The goal was to allow visitors easier access to several cultural sites miles from the island's ferry dock.

The Seashore's chief interpretive officer Maggie Tyler says, tours now will begin on Thursday.

"The only way to get there was to either ride a bike or of course your own two feet in hiking there," Tyler says. "So, this is going to present a side of Cumberland Island that they may not have been able seen before."

It took seven years to start the tours, in part, because the Seashore lacked a superintendent after the previous one was removed in a land use scandal.

Current superintendent Fred Boyles says, officials had to put the van tours through a lengthy review process.

"The other big hurdle that took us two years to complete was how to actually implement it logistically and financially," Boyles says. "There was no funding for the tours to get started."

The tours will cost $15 per person and could last up to six hours.

Visitors will be able to see Plum Orchard, the grand mansion once owned by the Carnegie family, and First African Baptist Church, the hub of a black community that once lived on the island's north end.

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