Providing a place to walk on the beach canít always be a walk in the park. But while it is not easy, it is an important function of the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission.
Take the county park at the west end of Folly Beach, for years a popular spot for sunning, strolling and swimming under the watch of lifeguards. Until last year, when Hurricane Irene spawned huge waves that washed over the entire spit of land where the park was situated. The park was closed in August of 2011, and since then erosion has made things worse.
Now the countyís Parks and Recreation Commission officials, recognizing how important that park is to the public, are ready to start over there. They have applied for permission to renourish the beach and build a 200-foot groin into the ocean.
Environmentalists often point out the futility of trying to stop nature from taking its course. Nature wins almost every time. Beaches accrete and erode. And state policy discourages groins or other rock or wood barriers because they can cause damage elsewhere by interrupting the natural flow of sand.
Fortunately, a study of the Folly Park site by Coastal Science and Engineering concluded that the groin could keep enough sand in place to enable the park to withstand the elements between periodic renourishing.
Also, it could help protect nearby Bird Key in the Stono River, an important shorebird rookery.
Still, there are hurdles to get over before the groin can be constructed and the park rebuilt. A permit can take months to get approved. Even if it were to happen more quickly, work could not begin until March because threatened-species shorebirds feed on the beach in winter.
The inconveniences are worth the worry if the park can be reopened. It is one of only a handful of local oceanfront parks providing the public beach access, which people want and deserve.
One of the parks, on Kiawah Island, limited the number of beachgoers who could use the park at the same time this summer because traffic and parking had become a problem.
Elsewhere on Folly Beach, hordes of weekend visitors left trash, drank lots of alcohol and acted inappropriately. Numerous people, who might have used Folly park if it had been open, lamented that Folly was no longer a good place to take children. Folly officials have since banned alcohol on the beach.
The beachfront belongs to the people. But as homeowners build more and larger houses along the beach, access becomes ever more scarce. People who live in or visit the area should not have a difficult time taking a swim in the ocean. Providing them more access is a worthy goal for Charleston County PRC.
PRC officials hope the park can be reopened next June, even if all the amenities arenít finished.
It would be a pity if another summer went by without that Folly Beach park.