As the economy strengthens, many developers will be researching ways to reach the “new” buyer that emerges. Idea Associates believes that the consumer will be looking for authentic neighborhoods – a place where they can reconnect with their friends and family. The large, ostentatious communities will no longer be the hot commodity. Such an authentic place of beauty can be found at Laurel Island. The developer has used the natural splendor of the Georgia coast to define this community.
There is a place near St Mary’s that is just inside the Georgia Coastal barrier islands at the southernmost part of the State. Interestingly enough (I kiddingly asked the owner about how much he paid for it), at exit 4 off I-95 coming out of Florida is the ephemeral huge interstate green “Laurel Island” exit sign. Soon after taking the exit east, you take Laurel Island Parkway past a few subdivisions and a golf course and the pavement ‘peters’ out to a dusty white dirt road.
You are then upon my friend Chip Drury’s 2000 acre Eden (actually a peninsula) called Laurel Island. Acquired by Chip and his family over 40 years ago, LI has been kept, nurtured and sequestered as an unspeakable paradise. Populated by the ubiquitous Spanish moss-covered Live Oaks and handsome Palmetto Shrub, this seahorse shaped patch of rich, high ground is surrounded on three sides by inviting and adventuresome navigable waters of the Crooked River. From above these dark waters, acres and acres of marsh and plains of high grass vistas that shield a mind-numbing, veritable world of estuarine plentifulness. Protected by the 80 foot ridgeline spine of Cumberland Island from abuse by the sea, the calm here is most comforting. Not overgrown, but not exactly manicured, this sandy soiled shelf sits immutably above the marshland almost like a movie set. A tropical table that makes you want to walk and explore its coolness.
Cursed by a late arrival from our drive down from Atlanta to meet a Lloyds of London underwriting exec and his posse, it seemed a shame that our initial tour was somewhat rushed. Still, during our quick meander (in a sure footed but tame Volvo SUV) around the 3 mile perimeter, we experienced a plethora of bird species including several types of egrets, heron, geese, waterfowl, hawks and other types that the unlearned cannot do justice to name or describe. A red fox, turtles and a highlight of several dolphins feeding on low tide quarry emphasized the pristine nature of the surroundings.
Though an Atlantan, I am a deer hunter and a bird hunter. As such, I have seen a lot of woods and spent much time out of doors. Not easily impressed, at times like this I usually engage myself in subconscious measurement of such excursions as suitable habitat for the manly pursuit of game. The richness and preserve-like setting discovered here, I must say, is without equal.
Chip Drury is a Developer like few you will ever meet. He is a true steward whose description of his land begins as a history lesson of the world; he touches on a Crown grant from King George, discovery of the west, trade through the era of clipper ships, to the widening of the Panama Canal and the near term importance of Jacksonville as a Port. He has actually tagged and logged the size, health and legal descriptions of 8,000 specimen trees in his keeping on LI. Drury is a former golfer on the pro circuit whose play took him to tournaments in 37 countries – travels which have aided him well in a special vision of what this island will become.
Driving up to a small dock on the north side of the island during our tour, we happened upon an open boathouse. Hoisted therein, free from the water was a 1929 mahogany built custom 38 foot Chris Craft cruiser. This restored classic beauty (which I later learned is powered by twin 454 Crusaders) gave us further picture of the man. Near the dock was a fire pit, a shed, a picnic table and several heavy wooden Adirondack chairs. I very much look forward to sitting amongst these chairs, smoking a fine cigar, drinking heavily of brown liquor and thus being better able to admire the view from Laurel Island out over the sweeping view of a marshland escape that few have witnessed.
My trip to LI, 5/5/09, first in a series.