Folly Beach park to open again?
FOLLY BEACH — A quick scan says the beachfront county park here is lost: uprooted trees, flattened dunes, overwashed marsh, the old office stranded on pilings in the surf.
But Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission officials now say the Folly park could reopen as soon as June.
The commission just applied for permits to renourish the beach and build a groin 200 feet out to sea. The paperwork was filed with the Army Corps of Engineers after a study by Coastal Science and Engineering renourishment guru Tim Kana indicated the groin could keep enough sand in place to prevent Folly Beach from eroding quicker than periodic renourishment could replace it.
Sand would be dredged from nearby high spots in the Folly River.
“It appears the fixes will work if we do it right,” said Tom O’Rourke, commission executive director. At the park now, the bathrooms and showers have been lost, only a portion of the parking lot remains, but “every single thing we’ll try to build back, and you know what else? We think we’ll be able to do it,” he said.
The project would cost $3 million, but parks officials have the funds in bond money and reserves.
Work couldn’t begin until March, at the earliest, since federal threatened-species shorebirds feed on the winter beach.
The bigger problem might be the groin.
Groins are barriers, usually made of rock or wood, built from the dunes into the ocean. They are controversial because they interrupt the flow of sand in shore currents, building beach sand upstream but depleting it downstream. They are discouraged by state coastal policy. Groin permits can take a year or two to decide and are hard to win.
But the commission won a permit for a 670-foot-long groin in 2003, and a groin could help protect nearby Bird Key Stono, a critical shorebird rookery.
The 2003 groin wasn’t built because the city of Folly Beach renourished the entire beach.
The typical length of a permit decision is about four months, but it’s too soon to say whether a decision could be made even by March, said Sara Corbett, of the Army Corps.
“We don’t even reference the earlier permit. It’s a whole new project. We go by the current permit,” she said.
The popular park, built on a spit of land on the west end of Folly Beach, closed in August 2011 after huge waves from passing Hurricane Irene tore through the dunes and crossover boardwalks. Since then, surf erosion has progressively destroyed park features.
To rebuild, “what we are going to have to do is start over,” O’Rourke said, and the park might not fully be restored when it’s reopened. But features such as temporary bathrooms, at least, will be in place.
“If we can just get people out to the beach, we’ll worry about the rest later,” he said.
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