Tybee on My Mind! Thetybeetimes.net

Little Tybee Ahead

Photo by Lauri Kinkel, copyright 2010

By Editor Cynthia Kinkel

Heading into June 2010, it’s been almost a year and a half since we first began publishing The Tybee Times.

During a time of economic turmoil, a time when many news publications were shutting down across the county, I set out with the help of my daughter, Lauri, family members and contributors to create a news venue that would not only mirror Tybee’s uniqueness, but allow for as much local expression, interaction, and participation in the process of its evolution as possible. This publication isn’t about the publisher/editor’s ideas or opinions, or even about those of our writers and contributors. Instead, it’s intended to be an overview of Tybee’s collective consciousness – a monthly and albeit daily dose of “all things Tybee,” if you will, that blends the flavor and mystique of what makes Tybee tick with the issues that confront this small, southern town by the sea and guide us through its current transition.

Still, I’ve some observations, and since this is a blog, I’d like to share a few opinions formed over the course of last 18 months.

Tybee has been going through an identity crisis for years. Shaped by the same external and internal factors that affect all small towns that depend on tourism for survival, there’s an additional pressure caused by the fact that coastal regions have always remained in high demand – even now it’s true, despite the depressed economy, and the crash of the real estate markets in 2007 – 2009. People love the coast, in fact, many are drawn each year, some waiting and saving for months just to spend a few days, seaside. Because of this, and more recent factors, such as the Disney movie, and other notable accolades, Tybee’s often afforded opportunities inland locations will never see, but there’s a downside.

Tybee is a community of year-round and part-time residents with local customs, beliefs and sensibilities yet virtually everyone’s business depends on tourist dollars to a certain degree. Granted, visitors bring much needed revenue to the island, but they sometimes have expectations that challenge the way things are, and when they come in large numbers, their needs may overburden local accommodations, facilities and infrastructure.

Tybee’s population is suffering from a type of collective schizophrenia – always has to a certain degree. It’s a duality brought on by desire to have it both ways, and we are often polarized at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to addressing local policy. On one end, there are those who view “old Tybee” as backward and antiquated, on the other, those who see any change as the enemy of our peace and tranquility.

We’re not necessarily talking Democrats, Republicans or Independents here, or “townies versus outsiders.” In the late 1990s, and through several election seasons, two distinct factions rose among us, simplistically known as the Tree Huggers (the environmentalists) versus the Sand Bubbas (the good ole boys), and the ‘property rights/development’ advocates also made their mark on the political scene. The latest battle cry from last November’s election was “Got Ethics?” Regardless, it usually see-saws back and forth, moving three steps forward, two steps back, and still we falter when it comes to settling issues as a whole community.

It boils down to defining a community purpose and a direction with which we all can live, and marketing ourselves accordingly. Take for instance, the Beach Bum Parade. What began as a local tradition celebrated prior to the start of tourist season on “Last Local’s Weekend” before Memorial Day, has evolved into a free-for-all that draws crowds from all over the South East, and is increasingly more difficult to manage. While off-season events that include a Festival of Pirates, New Year’s Eve fireworks, Mardi Gras revelers, parading Irish islanders on a Saint Patty’s frolic, even summer events such as the July 4th celebrations on the pier, are one thing – a parade that invites the masses to participate in a gigantic, sprawling water-fight is another, especially when it gets out of hand, (not to mention large events that are planned off-island by people accessing the public beach, public roads and parking facilities which require extra policing and additional volunteer clean up).

The Beach Bum Parade is “local-specific.” To expect strangers to even understand what it means – the DeSoto ball team, or the former Grand DeSoto Hotel, itself, is a real stretch. No wonder some Tybee folks no longer participate, and it’s a shame. Some things belong to Tybee and probably shouldn’t be billed as tourist attractions!

But like it or not, Tybee continues to evolve. There’s a changing of the guard, and many who’ve called Tybee home for years say they’re afraid we’re losing everything that makes us special. Some say the very essence of what makes visitors seek us out – our laid back charm and unpretentious civility, is disappearing, … by default.

However visitors experience our community, they come because they like what we project, and only after they get here, do they discover what makes us unique. It’s our privilege and indeed our responsibility to not only project the image we want, but to frame an identity for them and set policies that reflect it, or else whatever they bring with them will certainly preempt what’s here.

Two questions seem obvious: First, what do we want to save about Tybee Island? Second, what do we have to share with each other that we don’t mind sharing with our visitors, and what, if anything belongs to us, alone?  Perhaps if we can answer questions like these we’ll stand a better chance of moving forward in unity and renewed spirit as a community.

There’s no time like “Tybee Time,” but it’s high time to decide what this expression will mean in the future – who we are, and what we want to be.

Just my take.


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