As tourists once again begin flocking to Hilton Head Island, they are noticing the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.
The entanglement of trees on vacant lots lining popular island roadways such as Pope Avenue and William Hilton Parkway are hard for many to miss.
“We have been coming here for five years,” Rick Park, of Ohio, said Monday. “I noticed debris along the bike paths right away. It is always so nice and clean here. It is sad to see that.”
While the town nears completion of debris removal from rights-of-way, plans remain unclear about cleaning up nearly 350 acres of undeveloped property it owns.
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Scott Liggett, the town’s chief engineer and director of public projects and facilities, said the Federal Emergency Management Agency does not reimburse for cleaning up undeveloped land.
“Everything we see there will be the cost of the town,” Liggett said Monday. “One of the things we are going to have to talk about is, if we want to clean up those properties, and at what cost and what pace.”
It could take years to clean up the vacant lots, he said. And the cost is unknown.
Town manager Steve Riley said discussion about that cleanup issue will likely come before the Town Council during budget time. The new fiscal year starts July 1.
“It is something we will have to budget,” he said. “It is not something we are ready to deal with now.”
There are varying opinions on how or if the debris on undeveloped lots should be cleaned, he said.
“You will have to take more trees down to get to a lot of those trees,” Riley said. “It is possible springtime growth will hide some of this.”
Tourists interviewed Monday by The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette said mainly they have noticed the debris but were not bothered by it.
Dan Brannan, of Minnesota, said he expected the damage to be more significant.
“We called down to a resort in December to book a room, and they said, ‘Call back later,’ because many places were still closed from the (Oct. 8) storm,” he said. “We thought it would look worse, but it seems to be business as usual here.”
Mike and Debbie Busche, of Missouri, were uncertain if a hurricane caused the damage, but they did notice it.
“One advantage is that it is so hard to find anything here that it does sort of blend in,” Mike said jokingly.
Stacey Russell, of Oklahoma, wasn’t turned off by the debris.
“We have had an excellent stay,” Russell said. “It hasn’t hindered us. We are used to tornado damage.”