City wants to help kayakers: Charleston plans to build launch site at Murray Landing near North Bridge

Visitors to Murray Landing will be able to make use of 16 new parking spaces, among other improvements, if the project is built.

The Charleston Parks Department plans to build a canoe and kayak launch on the Ashley River in a $550,000 revamp of the Murray Landing on the south end of the S.C. Highway 7 bridge off Sam Rittenberg Boulevard.

The current landing at the bridge, which connects West Ashley to North Charleston, is a modest slab of concrete. The proposed work would add a fixed pierhead, 15 feet by 30 feet, attached to a walkway 255 feet long. The walkway would have two observation platforms, a canoe/kayak access platform and a 15-foot-by-30-foot floating dock.

Don Brown, director of the capital projects division of the city, said the area might be named North Bridge Park. The plan includes 16 parking spaces, access lanes from both sides of the bridge, bike racks, landscaping and lighting. Brown said the pier is an 'add alternate build' item, meaning that if it doesn't fit into the budget it won't be built. Visitors would still be able to launch their watercraft off the beach.

Another add alternate build item is a bike path extending from the frontage road in front of the Boy Scouts headquarters to the park.

'[The bridge] is one of the gateways into the city, and it's an opportunity for the area to be made much, much better, have easier access and be a really attractive landmark,' Brown said.

Brown said the project was the result of a collaborative effort between city Councilman Aubry Alexander and county Councilwoman Colleen Condon, both of whom represent West Ashley.

Ralph Earhart, the author of Kayak Charleston and chairman of the planning committee for Lowcountry Paddlers, the largest paddling club in South Carolina, said his group was excited about the project.

'It will open up this section of the Ashley River for easy access for paddlers,' Earhart, 62, said. 'I live in Charlestowne Estates, and it takes me three minutes to get down there. The West Ashley population has lots of kayakers.'

Earhart said the current landing was not designed for parking and that there are huge ruts in the dirt road underneath the bridge. Many kayakers are afraid to leave their cars unattended in the area to go on trips.

'We're hoping that when it's done there will be police patrols,' Earhart said.

The Charleston District of the Army Corps of Engineers will receive written statements about the proposal through July 26. The state Department of Health and Environmental Control will receive written statements through Aug. 10. Anyone may request, in writing, a public hearing on the project in that period of time. Requests must state the particular reasons for a public hearing.

Reach Ryan Quinn at 937-5906.