Hilton Head Island was the site for our latest visit this past weekend with my college roommate, Bill, and his wife, Pam. Mary Lou and I visited Hilton Head many times in the early years of our marriage, but it has probably been two decades since we visited the popular vacation spot.
Like many tourist driven developments, it has changed a lot over the past twenty years. The traffic is pretty heavy all the way from Interstate 95 to the bridge to the island. Six lanes of roadway now handles the traffic versus the two lanes I recall. Frankly, they could use more lanes during peak times.
It is a shopper’s paradise with every type of food, clothing, boat or car that a person could imagine. Vacation condominiums along with permanent homes have become increasingly grand over the years.
There is one thing that has not changed since the early visits we had to Hilton Head. The Live Oak trees are still a sight to behold. Trees are a serious thing in Hilton Head. The community has had the same natural resources administrator for over twenty five years. One of her most important jobs is simply protecting the island’s trees.
The Tailbird Oak has long been regarded as one of the oldest oak trees on Hilton Head Island. The Tailbird plantation was located on Skull Creek and was given to Lt. John Tailbird by his father as a wedding present in 1778.
Lt. Tailbird was a Revolutionary Soldier who was captured twice. During the war the British were instructed to burn the homes of the patriots between Beaufort and Savannah.
When the British arrived at Tailbird Plantation they were met by Tailbird’s wife who was nine months pregnant. The officer in charge happened to be Mrs. Tailbird’s brother-in-law. The officer allowed her to remove her belonging from the house and to put them under the branches of a giant oak tree. He then burned the house down.
Mrs. Tailbird gave birth to a son the very next day. The Tailbird Oak, as the tree became known, exists to this day, some 241 years later.
It was hard not to be a bit overwhelmed by all the oaks on Hilton Head Island. The owners and developers have done a great job in building roads and bike paths that preserve the integrity of the old trees. They planned ahead, which resulted in an amazing community that blends nature and man.
Coming back home along Interstate 16, I noticed the dozens of miles of the median that had been clear-cut, I assume after some previous storm. They have been replaced by hundreds of young oak trees that will one day look beautiful along the highway.
Many of our communities are devastated by the loss of trees due to Hurricane Michael. Even as our property is slowly put back together, we are reminded daily by our landscape of just what we have lost.
We cannot replace the trees we have lost, but we can replant trees for tomorrow. Some of us will live long enough to see those trees dotting the roads and lawns. Some trees will not reach their full size until our children are old. A few will likely only be seen by our grandchildren and great-grandchildren who will hopefully be grateful for the forward thinking efforts of today.
The BetterWay Foundation is working with the Donalsonville-Seminole Chamber of Commerce to start building that landscape of the future. You can purchase a shrub for as little as $50. More mature trees are being sold to replace those lost in the downtown area. Other areas in the county will be planted as well.
They say that time heals all wounds. One day the wounds of our damaged landscape will heal. However, this community will only recapture its full beauty if the seeds are planted in the first place.
Donalsonville may never look like Hilton Head, but it can look beautiful again one day. Do your part by helping plant the seeds for tomorrow.
Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]