FOLLY BEACH — A little holiday gift might be wrapped up for beachgoers by next summer: The once-popular, severely eroded beach park here might still be saved.
Tom O’Rourke, director of the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission, has been meeting with Coastal Conservation League Director Dana Beach to discuss safeguards in a contract to renourish the Folly Beach park; the safeguards would protect a nearby shorebird rookery and feeding ground.
The league’s battle against a permit for a groin, a barrier to stop erosion, threatened to delay the project too long to keep the sea from completely overwashing the now ruined park.
Beach said he has made proposals on “how to put this project together in a way that’s more protective of the rookery and help the beach.” But he did not want to detail proposals while discussions were still under way.
O’Rourke said Monday the commission thinks the dispute can be resolved before the new year, “if the two sides truly have issues and there is mutual respect for each group.”
O’Rourke earlier said the commission set aside $250,000 as part of the project to mitigate any damage that might result from the groin.
Before the league opposed the groin, commission officials were optimistic they could reopen the park by June.
The park drew more than 100,000 people per year, but it closed in 2011 after waves from passing Hurricane Irene tore through the dunes. Since then, storm waves have eaten through remaining high ground. The highest tides now create runs into the marsh behind.
The commission wants to erect a $3 million groin 200 feet out to sea to partly dam the flow of sand in the current along the shore. The groin would rebuild some beach and protect renourishment sand that would be dredged from a shoal in the Folly River beyond the marsh.
The league opposes the groin because it could rob sand from the important Bird Key Stono rookery and Skimmer Flats feeding ground at the river’s mouth.
Earlier this month, the league said it would take its fight against a state permit into court if necessary. O’Rourke said the park’s remaining high ground would be lost by the time a court battle could be resolved.
The park is built on a volatile spit of sand at Folly Beach’s far western end toward Kiawah Island. It has depended on periodic renourishment of the entire Folly island, paid for largely be federal money because sand-flow disruption at the Charleston jetties has exacerbated natural erosion along the island.
That renourishment, supposed to be scheduled for 2013, has been stymied by federal budget concerns and political posturing.
Commission officials earlier this year decided to pay for the groin and renourishment work with funds in bond money and reserves.
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