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Visiting these Beaufort Co. sites this summer? Here are some cool changes to know

Visitor’s center, docent led tours part of vision for Fort Fremont on St. Helena

FILE: Pete Richards, a founding member of the Friends of Fort Fremont, talks about their hopes for the future of Fort Fremont, which was built during the Spanish American War.
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FILE: Pete Richards, a founding member of the Friends of Fort Fremont, talks about their hopes for the future of Fort Fremont, which was built during the Spanish American War.

Visitors to a couple of popular sites in northern Beaufort County should notice some welcome changes this summer.

Work has started to overhaul the visitor center at Hunting Island State Park. And at Fort Fremont on nearby St. Helena Island, Beaufort County will build public restrooms, an interpretive center and picnic area as part of long-planned improvements.

At Hunting Island, where more than 1 million visitors flock annually, a complete renovation of the inside of the building is underway that will include interactive exhibits and art.

“This will be a much more vibrant room and much more interesting to children,” said Friends of Hunting Island vice president Carol Corbin, whose organization is overseeing the work. “We are hoping to improve it immensely.”

The work included new walls, paint and lighting fixtures and hardwood flooring will eventually place carpet. A small theater will show videos and a touch-screen display will show shorter clips highlighting aspects of Hunting Island, Corbin said.

With money from the S.C. Department of Transportation, the new display will include a model of the Harbor River Bridge currently being replaced on the way to Hunting Island. The lever used to open the swing bridge and the flashing lights will eventually become part of the interactive model at Hunting Island.

Beaufort artist Aki Kato is painting a mural on the walls of the visitor center, work expected to last five months. He has scenes sketched out, has begun to paint and will host the public from 2 to 3 p.m. Tuesday afternoons to discuss the project.

Hilton Head sculptor Kelly Richard is crafting birds meant to complement the mural.

At Fort Fremont in the Lands End area of St. Helena, the property will close May 15 to allow the county to build an interpretive center where visitors can learn more about the former military installation. Work will also include public restrooms, walking paths and a picnic pavilion.

The fort was built in 1898 to defend Port Royal Sound during the Spanish-American War. The new facilities will include artifacts and displays to teach visitors about the site.

The county’s acquired the preserve through its land preservation program in 2004.

The work at Hunting Island is the first phase of what park supporters hope will eventually include more attractions.

Friends of Hunting Island hopes to raise the $50,000 to $60,000 needed to include a virtual lighthouse in the visitor center for those not able to climb the steps of the park’s historic lighthouse. The feature would be wheelchair accessible and mimic the top of the lighthouse, using numerous screens to allow visitors to see panoramic views of sunrises and sunsets.

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