Hilton Head shuttle may reduce Coligny Beach traffic, but only for a few hours on weekends

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A look at the future Lowcountry Celebration Park to be built on the southend of Hilton Head Island.
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A look at the future Lowcountry Celebration Park to be built on the southend of Hilton Head Island.

Between the hours of 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays on Hilton Head Island, you don’t want to be driving on Pope Avenue.

Town leaders announced Friday that a daytime shuttle will run between Hilton Head’s USCB campus and Coligny Beach Park, 1.1 miles along Pope Avenue. The shuttle is run by Palmetto Breeze and operates during peak beach arrival times each weekend until Labor Day. Town communications director Carolyn Grant said the service will also run on July 3 and July 4 for the holiday.

The shuttle services, free for passengers but costing the town about $160 per day and $3,200 for the 10-week season, will likely funnel overflow parkers to the $1 trolley ride back to their cars after a day of swimming and sunbathing.

As Hilton Head’s most popular beach, Coligny has long been coupled with a 428-space free parking lot across South Forest Beach Road on the south end. When the free lot inevitably filled up, cars used to park in the grassy lot behind it.

With the construction of the Lowcountry Celebration Park underway in that grassy space now, most of the roads around Coligny have become a parking lot in the summer. During construction, the paved path on the southbound side of Pope Avenue is also closed.

By shuttling beachgoers to Coligny from USCB — on Office Park Road, now called Sand Shark Road for the school’s mascot — the town hopes to reduce the congestion, according to Assistant Town Manager Josh Gruber.

“It can become kind of gridlocked,” Gruber said. “We can’t get emergency vehicles in there.”

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The route of the Coligny beach free shuttle running summer 2019 between the USCB campus parking lot on Hilton Head to the Coligny Beach Park. The shuttle is free and run by the Town of Hilton Head Island and Palmetto Breeze transportation Katherine Kokal Google Maps

The goal is to monitor the free parking lot on the weekends, notifying beachgoers driving on Pope Avenue that they should use the 300 parking spaces at USCB for Coligny parking, Mary Lou Franzoni, executive director of Palmetto Breeze, said Monday.

“You don’t want to get all the way to Coligny and fight all that just to turn around,” she said. “It’s really just so that people don’t get frustrated or park in the wrong place or park in an unsafe manner.”

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Mary Lou Franzoni Special to The Island Packet

The shuttles, which can seat about 20 people, have the Palmetto Breeze logo on the side, Franzoni said.

When the shuttle ceases operating at 1 p.m., the Palmetto Breeze trolleys begin a longer route from Shelter Cove to Coligny. The trolleys run until 10:30 p.m. from Sunday through Thursday and 12:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Palmetto Breeze and the Town of Hilton Head Island started a trolley service in July 2018. The seasonal trolley will run April through mid-October in 2019. Here's the route.

Day trippers?

The shuttle will likely cater to visitors to the island who frequent the Coligny-area shops, bike rentals and hotels.

In December town leaders discussed “day tripping” tourists, how they affect the island’s economy and growing congestion.

Day-trippers are typically the beach-going tourists on Hilton Head who don’t stay overnight. Several council members said one-day tourists appear to be causing problems for beach parking, transportation and the island’s economy.

“As the (Lowcountry) Celebration Park comes out of the ground, the issue of parking and what to do about it will come up,” Ward 5 representative Tom Lennox said in December. The park will be constructed in the next two years in what was the overflow parking lot.

Councils past and present have floated the idea of charging for parking at Coligny, but each year have ultimately decided against it.

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Katherine Kokal moved to South Carolina in 2018 after graduating from the University of Missouri and loves everything about the Lowcountry that isn’t a Palmetto Bug. She has won South Carolina Press Association awards for in-depth and government beat reporting. On the weekends, you can find Kati doing yoga and hiking Pinckney Island.