Originally created 09/27/03

House bill approves land swap on island



ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a land swap in which Fort Frederica National Monument will get 8.7 acres that might have been the home of Georgia's founder, while historic Christ Church Episcopal will get 6 acres for possible expansion.

The House unanimously approved the trade this week, said U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., who introduced the resolution. The matter must still clear the Senate, but no opposition is expected.

"This benefits everyone: Fort Frederica, Christ Church and the community," Mr. Kingston said in a prepared statement. "The National Park Service is offering land without historic value and in return getting land that is recognized as the site Gen. James Edward Oglethorpe occupied after founding what is now the state of Georgia."

It was there that Oglethorpe founded the fortified town of Frederica in 1736 as the southernmost English outpost to protect colonial South Carolina from potential invasion from the Spanish in Florida. The town served its purpose in 1742, when British troops garrisoned at the fort and Scottish Highlanders from Darien, Ga., repulsed a Spanish invasion in the Battle of Bloody Marsh.

The Spanish abandoned Florida a few years later, and the British left Frederica for the mainland.

Park Superintendent Mike Tennant said the National Park Service is giving up land next to Christ Church property that sits behind Fort Frederica's maintenance area.

The land the church is giving up, which it acquired in another land trade, is across Frederica Road and north of the fort, Mr. Tennant said.

"I strongly believe that this proposed exchange would benefit the U.S. in protecting and conserving significant cultural resources such as the Oglethorpe ruins," Mr. Kingston said.

The foundations and ruins of the former fort and town are a major attraction of the fort, but Mr. Tennant said some archaeological work must be done to establish whether Oglethorpe lived on the land.

The national monument drew about 250,000 visitors last year and Christ Church drew many itself. Made famous by Eugenia Price's historical novels, the church has about 1,000 members, and needs room to grow to accommodate its many visitors.