It's easy to see that Hunting Island State Park in Beaufort County is one of the state's most popular parks.
Once you cross the bridge onto the little barrier island, it's a beautiful step back in time. Limited development has preserved a breathtaking Lowcountry environment that offers a rare glimpse into what all of Beaufort County must have looked like a century ago. For generations, families from near and far have traveled to the spot to splash in the ocean, teach their children to crab, climb the old lighthouse, picnic under Spanish moss and camp under the stars.
Thank goodness for forward-thinking county leaders and residents who, during the Great Depression, realized the island's potential and purchased it for preservation. Since its opening in 1941, it has been a success.
But Mother Nature has other plans for the pristine spot. Each year, 15 to 30 feet of the island are lost to chronic erosion.
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Since 1969, eight major beach renourishment projects have taken place on Hunting Island, totaling some $15 million.
The most recent in 2007, which entailed the installation of six groins, was not intended to halt erosion. Rather, it lessened the damage in the most widely used portions of the 4-mile beach.
The time has come for another renourishment project. Hunting Island advocates realize there's no way to stop Mother Nature altogether. Instead, they hope to extend the island's life for as long as they can, ensuring that a few more generations get to enjoy the island's offerings.
When the state legislature reconvenes in January, members should give serious consideration to a request to fund another renourishment project.
Island advocates say they're not so hopeful. The recent flooding in the Midlands is likely to take center stage.
"In January, we want to do a letter campaign to get in the 2016-17 state budget," said Denise Parsick, president of the Friends of Hunting Island nonprofit. "But with all the damage done in the state by the (flooding) that just happened, we're a little less optimistic now than we were two months ago."
Indeed, restoring infrastructure damages from the 1,000-year flood should be lawmakers' top priority. But it shouldn't be the only one.
Hunting Island has long been short-changed. Money spent on its renourishment pales in comparison to that spent on other parts of the state's coast. Meanwhile, revenue generated by Hunting Island's park is used to support state parks elsewhere.
The state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism is conducting preliminary work, prepping for a permit for beach renourishment. If the agency gains approval, the project might be done in conjunction with a similar one proposed for nearby Edisto Island.
It's time to see dollars flow back to Hunting Island for renourishment. While there's no stopping Mother Nature, there is a way to slow her down a bit so a few more generations can enjoy the view.