The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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CNHI News Service Originals

November 6, 2012

St. Marys is a Georgia gateway

Quite fine visiting a gateway city without going through the gate.

That’s what I figured out in St. Marys, Ga. This community on three rivers is the entry to America’s National Seashore known as Cumberland Island.

Nothing wrong with delighting strictly in St. Marys. Fun dining, museums, distinctive bed and breakfast inns, picnic spots and hidden gardens.

A downtown waterfront park along the river, and churches with unlocked doors and independently owned stores.

Plenty to do, easy to access. Walkable. Bike-able. Personable. The kind of friendly that felt genuine, not hospitality trained.

Volunteers drive the open-air trolley because they like to, and that showed in cheerful stories heard from Roger Rillo.

“This is a great place to reinvigorate and reinvent yourself,” Rillo says in between identifying historic buildings and lush canopies of live oak trees.

He’s a retired Marine, loving St. Marys history and the chance to talk about it.

Live oak tree canopies line the way to a bed and breakfast named Emma’s with a four-acre backyard habitat certified by the National Wildlife Federation.

You might think a wildlife kind of inn would be far from the action, but Emma’s is an easy stroll to the waterfront for the National Park Service ferry to Cumberland Island.

Even closer to the new Peace Garden next to Oak Grove Cemetery.

Handsome place with live oak trees and Spanish moss shading soldier graves from every war, and other dearly departed too.

The Peace Garden connects St. Marys to Canada as the southernmost garden of the Binational Peace Garden Trail.

Its purpose? Commemorate the War of 1812 and 200 years of peace, prosperity and friendship between America and Canada.

I don’t think often about the War of 1812 but St. Marys claims the last battle, and the Cumberland Island National Seashore Museum tells the details of Point Peter, Jan. 10, 1815.

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