HICKS COLUMN: Kiawah, we have a problem
On July 4th, the parking lot at Kiawah's Beachwalker Park filled up 35 minutes after it opened.
Park workers had some people pull onto the grass outside the gates, and then directed another 60 cars to spaces at Town Hall, which was closed for the holiday.
After that, folks were turned away.
Let's get this straight: On Independence Day, people are told they can't go to a public beach? That's un-American.
This all happened because on Monday the town of Kiawah announced that cars no longer will be allowed to idle outside the gate of Beachwalker.
If you can't get in, you have to leave the island.
You'd think Kiawah residents would be a tad more sympathetic, seeing as how they are always carping about what a long hike it is to get out there. In fact, it takes 30 to 45 minutes for most locals to make the trek.
Telling them to turn around and go back just because Kiawah doesn't want traffic certainly doesn't seem like a fitting attitude for “The Happiest Seaside Town in America.”
Sounds like the real slogan is “Keep Out.”
On Monday, the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission was quick to throw islanders under the bus, calling this a “town of Kiawah policy.”
Kiawah officials told The Post and Courier that the decision was made for safety, clutter and environmental reasons. It sounds like someone complained to Town Hall about cars blocking a dead-end street.
Good thing these folks don't live on Folly Beach, the Isle of Palms or downtown Charleston — they'd blow a gasket. Sometimes traffic is the price of living in paradise.
This is a problem that's going to come up every weekend. Expecting people to endure this sort of inconvenience and take their happy selves back to West Ashley smacks of elitism. It's a public relations blunder of the worst kind.
And just before the PGA Championship.
The county will meet with town officials next week to see what can be done about this.
The mayor of Kiawah is a reasonable guy, probably reacting to the demands of angry residents. So who knows what might happen.
But Kiawah had better hope this gets solved, or County Council might chime in.
“I have faith they can work this out, but if they can't I'll get involved as much as I need to,” says Councilman Joe Qualey, who represents the area. “Nobody should be turned away from one of our county parks.”
That's exactly right.
Charleston County has a horrible problem with beach access right now, thanks to a storm taking out Folly Beach County Park. It's a problem for everyone, not just the riffraff who can't afford to live behind a gate.
Kiawah needs to rectify this because the island needs the county. If the public can't get access to a great public beach — “The 9th best in America!” — then taxpayers might understandably balk the next time oceanfront homeowners ask for taxpayer-funded beach re-nourishment.
And no one would blame them.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.