Trash into treasure Sullivan’s Island offers public invaluable access to marsh side

Jesse O’Shea casts his line into a tidal creek on the marsh side of Sullivan’s Island on Friday afternoon. The Town of Sullivan’s Island and the Mount Pleasant Land Conservancy are preserving three acres of land that lead to the marsh and creek near Station 19 for community members to use as green space, such as fishing and access for kayaks.

SULLIVAN’S ISLAND — Off the beaten path on the backside of the island, a well-manicured, three-acre grassy expanse spills down to the marsh in front of a row of million-dollar homes.

Jesse O’Shea of Moncks Corner said he likes to fish and kayak from the spot. On Friday, he was using left-over lunch meat to catch mud minnows for bait.

“In another few weeks, the redfish will be up here. It’s almost a hidden little area,” O’Shea said.

Town Council recently voted that the town-owned property should be protected in perpetuity for public use.

“We are very lucky that they chose to do that,” O’Shea said.

Kayakers such as O’Shea use the location to launch into tidal creeks that lead to the Intracoastal Waterway.

The newly protected open space represents a bookend to a grim time in island history when Hurricane Hugo blasted ashore in 1989. During the massive clean-up, tons of storm debris was buried at the site.

Now, though, there is no hint of that tragedy at the big green field located at the corner of Station 19 and Back streets. The Mount Pleasant Land Conservancy teamed with council to permanently preserve the location for people to enjoy. A half-acre piece of marshland at Station 9 is also part of the arrangement.

Birds of prey enthusiasts flock to the area, said Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Perkis. The property will be a “passive park” providing public access to the marsh, he said.

“It’s a big deal,” he said. The town has for decades provided public beach access. Now, it is beginning to offer the same benefits on its marsh side, he said.

“People should use it. We want people to use it,” he said.

Mayor Carl Smith said that for generations islanders used the location to launch bateau boats. At the same time, the spot has a long-time history of having been used as a dump, although that is no longer the case.

“It’s a great opportunity to preserve green space. We could have sold it for profit,” Smith said.

The agreement to protect the town property has been three years in the making, said John Girault, executive director of the Mount Pleasant Land Conservancy.

“The Mount Pleasant Land Conservancy is honored to collaborate in the leaving of a legacy of permanent protection on these extraordinary sights that will keep the community connected to the natural world that surrounds them,” he said.

The half-acre site at Station 9 that is part of the conservation agreement is a wooded lot that was once the landing area for the original Pitt Street Bridge that connected Mount Pleasant and the island until it was replaced by the Ben Sawyer Bridge in 1945.

“We have always provided welcoming access to the ‘front beach,’ and with this agreement with the Mount Pleasant Land Conservancy, we have assured that these two parcels will always permit access to the ‘back beach,’” said Town Councilman Pat O’Neil.

“It is good that the back beach now doesn’t have to take a back seat to the front beach,” O’Neil said.

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