Friday, May 10, 2013

Folly Beach County Park could reopen this summer

Bringing Back the Beach

Posted by Susan Cohen on Fri, May 10, 2013 at 4:13 PM

Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission
Crews pump sand onto Folly Beach
  • Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission
  • Crews pump sand onto Folly Beach

It's been almost two years since Hurricane Irene lay waste to Folly Beach County Park. The storm caused so much erosion and structural damage that the county closed it down, putting undue pressure on the county's other two public beach parks, Isle of Palms County Park and Kiawah Beachwalker Park. And for a while there, it looked like the Folly Beach park might be gone for good.

But right now, Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission crews are pumping thousands of cubic yards of sand from the Folly River onto the beach in the first step to stabilizing the park. The extra sand — all 415,000 cubic yards of it — will make the beach at the site longer. Once that large, dry area is established, construction for a terminal groin can begin.

In coastal engineering, a groin is a low wall built off the shore that can help limit erosion by interrupting water flow. This one will extend 745 feet out into the sea, but it's a controversial device. While the groin will help retain the land at Folly Beach County Park over time — and even help create an area for sea turtle nesting and shorebird habitats — it may also effect erosion downstream, specifically to Bird Key Stono and Skimmer Flats, according to The Post and Courier. If that's the case, the groin will have to be removed.

Earlier this year, the Coastal Conservation League opposed the groin for that very reason, and it threatened legal action before a compromise was reached between the organization and the commission over the monitoring plan for impacts.

"As many studies and projects have shown, hard erosion structures typically do more damage than good, so all of us need to start preparing now for the inevitability of continued erosion along our coasts as well as increases in the number and severity of storm events," says Katie Zimmerman, program director at CCL. "If the public is going to continue to have access to beaches, we are all going to need to sit down together and develop successful park and ride systems. It doesn't make fiscal or environmental sense to expect to be able to drive out and park our cars along the beach, and continue to renourish sand and build more damaging structures."

Permits for the renourishment were approved by the Army Corps of Engineers and the State of South Carolina earlier this year. Once the park is reopened to the public, which may happen this summer, it will offer public beach access, parking spaces for 200 vehicles, and seasonal lifeguards. Portable restrooms and concessions are planned for the future.

Zimmerman adds that there are simple and sensible solutions that can be implemented by CCL, CCPRC, and other decision makers that both recognize the impacts of sea level rise, but that also allow families to enjoy area beaches.

Stay tuned to progress at

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