Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Rural Fourth of July in Coastal Louisiana

This is a great little story about Holly Beach, Louisiana, a coastal community destroyed by Hurricane Rita a few years ago. The area is now facing development pressures, giving rise to a now familiar conflict between old and new in rural America, especially where "resort" areas are at issue.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the Shaila Dawan story:

For decades Holly Beach has been known as a poor man’s resort town. Before Hurricane Rita struck three years ago, it was a collection of fishing camps — primitive cabins — crowded together on 25-by-50-foot lots sandwiched between the Gulf of Mexico and the marshes and bayous of Cameron Parish, in southwest Louisiana. Though Cameron Parish has 1,313 square miles of land and is one of Louisiana’s largest, it has but one stop light.

Still, thousands of families flocked here every Fourth of July, planting campers and tents on the beach, or renting the camps for less than $100 a night.

And here is a closing comment from resident Lee Stelly, who previously owned and rented out 13 of the "camps." He now lives in a posh, newly built home on stilts, and rents out two trailers. He comments on the proposed development of apartments and hotels at Holly Beach:
“I’m a seventh-grade dropout,” was Mr. Stelly’s warning to one developer from outside the state. “But I can tell you one thing, it’s not going to work.”
Now that is an authentic comment if I ever I heard one -- the sort of thing I can imagine hearing from the mouth of many of the rural Southerners I know. There's a certain confidence -- and pride -- in what they know, and in their attachment to and "ownership" of their homes, their place.

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