In the summer of 2011, Hurricane Irene’s surf chewed up Folly Beach County Park. The park was destroyed in the storm and has remained closed ever since.
Now, the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission hopes to rebuild the park on the west side of Folly Beach by building a rock wall known as a groin. The groin would capture sand to prevent further erosion. Several dunes that had surrounded the beach’s parking lot were washed away in the storm and high tide now flows into the lot.
However, the Coastal Conservation League opposes the groin permit, saying it is even willing to go to court to prevent such a wall from being built. The conservation group says the proposed $3 million groin would stop the natural flow of sand to several bird nesting sites located downstream of the island.
“These kinds of structures have not been approved extensively for exactly the reasons that we’re concerned about this one,” Coastal Conservation League executive director Dana Beach said. Instead, he said it would be better for county officials to truck in sand and rebuild the park that way.
“In this case, putting in a terminal groin is working against Mother Nature,” Beach said, “We’re trying to do something that she isn’t inclined to do in the first place.”
However, the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission will “walk away” from any effort to save the park if the case winds up in court, Executive Director Tom O’Rourke told the Charleston Post & Courier. O’Rourke said a court case could take years, but a groin is needed immediately.
“We’re not going to be able to save the park in the future because there’s not going to be any park to save. It’s now or it’s gone,” he reportedly told the paper.
Folly Beach has struggled with erosion ever since jetties were first built for the Charleston Harbor. Because the jetties were an Army Corps of Engineers project, the agency is required to renourish the beach occasionally. However, budget problems have put renourishment up in the air for several years now.
The commission hopes to pay for the groin through bonds and its reserves.
Sheree Bernardi of Charleston affiliate WTMA contributed to this report