Day Trip: Sandy Island

Living in a beach town for college makes you always crave more time outdoors and adventure but these adventures are often hard to find. To make this quest easier, I’m documenting experiences outside to have near Coastal, some of which I went on with my eco-writing class over the summer. One of my favorite trips was to Sandy Island, a tour only available by boat and so worth it.

     In order to go to Sandy Island, we parked in a dirt lot and got into a small boat where we met our guide. Our guide, Rommy Pyatt, stretched his hand out to help us onto the shaky boat and after we all loaded in, we set sail. We soon learned that the canal we were riding through was cut in so that people could get from Sandy Island to “the mainland.” Rommy told us “On some days the water tastes like coffee or tea,” while whipping out a cup offering for us to try it. I could not determine whether or not he was serious--but if he wasn’t, he put on a good show.

    After a few minutes, we began to approach the shore of Sandy Island and a small yellow building came into view right off of the coast. Written in large red letters was “PYATTS GENERAL STORE,” which Rommy told us was his mom’s store. We started and ended our day in this small building that sold Sandy Island t-shirts and postcards, much resembling a Myrtle Beach gift shop. It was in this gift shop that we learned brief history and about the island and were encouraged to purchase and read some of the books in the shop that went into further detail. After discussing the history of Sandy Island and the people there, Mrs. Pyatt told us that there are only 32 current residents left of what was once 7,000-10,000. This small town reminded me of a Hallmark town--one of the small towns on Christmas movies that acts as a family and welcomes new members with love. 

    As we left the general store and piled into our guide’s vehicle, we went on a trip around the island, stopping at various locations to learn more specifics. Involved in our stops was: a cemetary, the community center, the fire station, the church, and most interestingly to me--the school and library. After spending a few hours learning about the culture of Sandy Island and encountering the family-like welcome they gave to their visitors, Rommy told us more about their close call with evacuation at the school. Many years ago, Craig Wall and Roger Milligan attempted to buy lots from the people at Sandy Island. These two businessmen told the people that if they would allow them to have a piece of their land in order to harvest timber and build a bridge to the mainland, then the people of Sandy Island could use the bridge when they needed to get to the mainland as well. Although this deal sounded reasonable to the people of Sandy Island, it was soon discovered that building the bridge would cost more money than the timber harvest was worth and Wall and Milligan must have something else planned.

    After this discovery, the Nature Conservancy also discovered red cockated woodpeckers located within this area of the island. Due to the birds’ endangered state, Milligan and Wall were not able to cut down trees in the area because it would break laws in place to protect the birds’ survival and repopulation. It was later discovered that Milligan and Wall intended to create a private golf resort on Sandy Island--a plan never discussed with the people living there. This would have pushed the residents out of their homeland and destroyed all of its unique culture and history. This discovery made me feel honored to be a part of what remains and discouraged to attend a university that has a building named after the man who attempted to devastate an island of people for capital gain.

    If you’re interested in this great historical tour in a beautiful place, click here!