Folly Beach County Park is a popular place for the public to enjoy the surf and sun — when the beach is actually there. But erosion related to Hurricane Irene eliminated much of the park acreage in 2011, and the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission is facing a do-or-die situation for the park’s future.
The PRC hopes to reclaim the popular beach destination with a short-term $3 million stabilization and renourishment project, which would include the use of a sand-capturing beach groin.
The expectation is that the beach park could actually reopen for the summer season if the project goes forward.
Given the lack of easy beach access in Charleston County, it’s a worthy plan — even considering the expense — if it doesn’t create insoluble environmental problems in the process.
Initially, it appeared that the Coastal Conservation League would object to a permit for the project because of the possibility of a bad outcome. But this week League officials said that a compromise might yet be possible.
The primary sticking point is the viability of two nearby islets that serve as valuable habitat for pelicans and other birds.
Consultants for the PRC contend that the Folly project won’t damage either Bird Key Stono or Skimmer Flats.
Nevertheless, PRC has agreed to put $250,000 into an escrow account to mitigate any problems that might occur. And PRC has agreed to abandon the groin project if it proves harmful.
Since those conditions aren’t dissimilar to what the League is seeking, there is reason to hope for a workable compromise on the park.
“I’m optimistic,” PRC executive director Tom O’Rourke tells us. “We don’t have any problem cleaning up or fixing any mess that we make.”
If the permit is delayed, PRC says the project won’t be possible this year. And that likely would mean an end to the park which is experiencing tidal overwash.
Groins and other hard erosion control systems disrupt the natural flow of sand along the shoreline of volatile barrier islands, and thus can create more problems than they solve. But Folly Beach already deals with an erosion problem that has been accelerated by the Charleston harbor jetties. As such, it receives periodic renourishment by the federal government. In this instance, however, the regular renourishment schedule won’t occur in time to restore the park.
“Folly Beach is fighting bad engineering,” says Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin. He supports the PRC restoration plan for the beach park.
At this point the PRC is faced with a last-ditch effort to revive a valuable public amenity. The League’s decision to work toward a compromise with PRC is an encouraging development that hopefully will be followed by another — the restoration of Folly Beach County Park.