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Monday, October 29, 2012 - 9:22am

Islanders Cry Foul Over Fee Proposal

State officials are considering a hike in the Sapelo Island ferry fee.

The Department of Natural Resources' boat is the only way on and off the barrier island.

DNR officials say budget cuts leave them with little option but to raise the fee now at one dollar each way.

About fifty people live on the island.

Most are Gullah-Geechee descendants of the island's former plantation slaves.

Sapelo resident Reginald Hall has been fighting other fee increases.

He says the ferry fee hike is insult to injury after islanders this year received steep rises in property taxes.

"To raise the price of the only transportation that most of us have to and from the island -- we would only pray that that is not another systemic effort to run-off of the indigenous population," Hall says.

DNR officials say they're committed to keeping the $25 annual fee for islanders in tact.

But some residents don't qualify for the pass and many rely on ferry-riding tourists for their livelihoods.

Hall says residents need jobs to keep people from leaving the island.

"Let's at least say that if we're going to raise the ferry price, that it would be mandated for a new tourism effort," Hall says. "Let's have a roundtable discussion that could turn into a development session that could truly begin to save the Gullah-Geechee people."

DNR officials are planning a public meeting on Sapelo Island to discuss the proposal.

They haven't yet determined a new fare.