Keep Folly Beach Park on track

Brad Nettles/postandcourier/file Folly Beach County Park remains closed to the 100,000 visitors who used its parking, beach access, concessions and lifeguards each year.

The debate over building a groin to renourish the Folly Beach County Park has shifted back and forth more than the fickle shoreline that defines the county-owned park.

It’s time for a compromise that will allow the groin to be built before the park washes away altogether.

In August 2011, Hurricane Irene passed the South Carolina coast and damaged the park badly. It remains closed to the 100,000 visitors who used its parking, beach access, concessions and lifeguards each year.

The Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission says that building a groin similar to those on other parts of Folly Beach would stop erosion of the park after it is renourished with sand.

But groins are controversial — for good reason. Manipulating the littoral flow of sand to build up one place can damage others.

PRC is so confident that its $3 million plan is environmentally sound that it has promised to remove the groin should it harm nearby shorebird habitats.

PRC is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to restore the park because it is one of only a handful of places where the public can easily access the Lowcountry’s beaches.

Indeed, only the public value of this project warrants the construction of a hard erosion control structure along the beach.

But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service largely backs up PRC’s plan, as does the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The Coastal Conservation League, which usually opposes the building of groins, backed off of its objections somewhat because of the Park and Recreation Commission’s promise to take the groin down if it presents problems.

PRC has engaged a coastal geologist who specializes in beach restoration planning and design to do the job — and to monitor the results of his work.

The Coastal Conservation League, however, wants an independent scientist to monitor the job, and threatens to send the matter to court.

We need a solution now. If the matter goes to court, the project is dead. That’s a serious consequence to be avoided.

The state’s office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, a part of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, is overseeing the project and should be adequate to the task.

But if PRC wants to go the extra mile, it could provide full access to data and monitoring results.

If the Coastal Conservation League — or anyone else — wants to hire a scientist to provide another level of review, the option would be available.

Then maybe this project can go forward with the assurance that full oversight is being provided by all hands and the cook.