When we arrived at Fort Frederica National Monument at the end of December, we noticed that construction had finally begun on the realignment of Frederica Road. Frederica Road is the road that goes past Christ Church, the National Monument, and Wesley United Methodist.
Christ Church has struggled with parking for years. The church is a very popular tourist attraction on the island because of Eugenia Price‘s St. Simons trilogy. They have very limited parking and most of the parking is across Frederica Road from the church. The church is located on a big curve in the road. On Sunday morning, cars will fill up the parking and then line up on the berm some distance from the church.
In order to remedy this situation, Christ Church came up with a plan which was many years in the making. In 2017 they got permission from Wesley UMC and the monument for a road realignment. Both of those properties had to give up a little land and sign off on the project. That same year, the Glynn County Commissioners gave approval to the plan to move the road. Christ Church agreed to pay most of the costs of moving the road.
The basic plan is to straighten most of Frederica Road so that the big curve will be more gradual. The old road will be expanded so that Christ Church has a parking lot. Fort Frederica will move the entrance to its maintenance road, Old Monument Road. Fort Frederica will also benefit by the project fixing a water retention / flooding problem at its entrance gate.
The project finally got underway last year. When we arrived at the end of December, there were big earthmoving vehicles where there used to be a stand of live oaks. Glynn County, of which St. Simons Island is a part, has a regulation stating that live oak removal has to have approval of the County Tree Board. But Glynn County doesn’t have anyone on the Tree Board and so no one gave approval for the removal of the trees. This caused a stop work order in September on the road project. The project has since resumed but I couldn’t find any evidence that the tree dispute had been resolved.
Meanwhile, the trees have been removed along the road corridor. The roadway has gradually been built up and a gravel bed is being laid down. There are lots of holes and trenches being dug alongside the old and new roadways, but I don’t know much about road construction so I don’t know what they are for. Frederica Road is often down to one lane as they work on the the new roadway. Christ Church currently has even less parking than before with all the construction equipment.
It is interesting to watch road construction projects happening. Tom and I have noticed that it takes a very long time to get any road construction done on the island. Between the sandy soil that easily washes away and the protected trees, it seems to be hard to make much progress. Most of the time when I walk by there are one or two guys working hard and another dozen standing around and watching them.
I hope that the project is done sooner rather than later. I also hope that it solves the parking problem for Christ Church. With projected costs over 1.3 million, the church is certainly paying enough to get a parking lot.