South Carolina State Parks officials say rough weather has derailed plans to reopen one of the state’s most popular parks, seven months after it was closed due to damage from Hurricane Matthew.
In a release, the State Park Service said seven inches of rain fell in just 36 hours this week, causing floods that made the park “unsafe for visitors.” The rain also interfered with work efforts to reopen the park in time for Memorial Day weekend.
The Hilton Head Island Packet first reported the announcement. The newspaper reported the group Friends of Hunting Island Park had scheduled several work days before Friday’s anticipated opening, but all were rained out. The work was planned to clear trails and build new picnic tables, among other projects.
Only the park’s nature center is currently open to visitors. Earlier this month, Park Service Director Phil Gaines expressed optimism that Hunting Island’s popular north beach — including its landmark lighthouse — would be open in time. Prior to the flooding, Gaines had hoped the park’s south beach area and campground could reopen by the end of June. That now appears unlikely.
Hunting Island is South Carolina’s most popular state park, averaging more than 1 million visitors per year. The 5,000-acre barrier island is located about 10 miles east of Beaufort along the coast, just south of St. Helena Sound.