The small island of Tangier, Virginia, which is vanishing due to rising waters, has surpassed an important community fundraising goal after Donald Trump told the mayor not to worry about increasing sea levels.
“He said, ‘Your island has been there for hundreds of years, and I believe your island will be there for hundreds more,” Tangier Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge said Trump told him in a surprise phone call on Tuesday. The president said “not to worry about sea-level rise,” Eskridge added.
Tangier has lost nearly 70 percent of its land mass since 1850, losing up to nine acres each year. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicts rising waters and erosion will be so dire in 20 years— even fewer in the event of a major storm — that the remaining residents will be forced to abandon the Chesapeake Bay island. The population has already shrunk from 1,500 to 450.
The president reached out to Eskridge after a CNN report last week on the island’s threatened future and its charm. The local residents, deep in Trump country, were thrilled with the White House phone call and have used it and the media attention to build support for the one thing they believe can save them: a sea wall.
Tangier town council member Anna Pruitt-Parks launched a GoFundMe page to raise money to buy 550 copies of a documentary on the island, “Pieces of Tangier,” by filmmaker Jenny Roberts (whose own fundraising video appeal six years ago is shown above). The plan is to send the video to everyone in the House and Senate, as well as to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in a bid to get the sea wall built. A letter would accompany the films, explaining “Tangier’s history, its current situation and detailing the help that is needed to save our Island home,” Pruitt-Parks noted on the GoFundMe pitch.
The campaign has so far raised nearly 30 percent more than its $3,200 goal.
“Looks like over 500 copies of ‘Pieces of Tangier’ are going to be sent to Congress!” read a post on the documentary’s Facebook page. “There is no pride like Tangier pride!”
The documentary examines the changing conditions swallowing up Tangier, as well as the way of life on one of the few island fishing communities in America.
Some 87 percent of Tangier’s population voted for Trump in the presidential election, but the president has said he believes climate change is a “hoax,” making him an unusual figure rally behind to save the island.
Tangier residents remain major Trump supporters; Eskridge says he loves Trump as “much as a member of my family.” But if the president could help build Tangier a wall — in the sea — islanders would be even happier.
The mayor told CNN that he appealed to Trump to help with funding a wall and is trying to arrange a trip to Washington to meet with the president.
“They talk about a wall, we’ll take a wall,” Eskridge told CNN. “We’d like to have a wall all the way around Tangier. We’d love a wall.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.