Improved access to water can have big impact here

French explorer Jean Ribaut's voyage up the Atlantic Coast was beset by a storm as it passed the present-day border of Georgia and South Carolina. Two small boats in the party were separated from the mother ships and forced to take refuge inland.

Upon rejoining Ribaut the next day, the crews of those boats described a harbor more beautiful than any they had encountered in the Americas. Ribaut, venturing to see Port Royal Sound for himself on May 17, 1562, described it as "one of the fayrest and greatest Havens of the worlde."

Thus, from the very beginning of its recorded history, the land that would become Beaufort County has been noted for the allure of its waterways and the joys they impart. In fact, the appeal of these waters have become central to our way of life, and Beaufort County's recent moves to improve public access to them is commendable and economical.

If County Council follows the recommendations from its Public Facilities Committee, for about $45,000, a new walkway and new stairways will provide access to the beachfront at Lands End on St. Helena Island.

Another $121,000 would be spent to build a floating dock at Wimbee Creek Landing, also in northern Beaufort County. That project is one of eight boating-access improvements proposed for funding through a $510,750 grant from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

As part of that grant, the county so far has completed renovations to the Butchers Island Ramp and Paige Point Landing, where a dock was added.

The county also is seeking bids for new docks at Eddings Point Landing and Wallace Landing, which will get renovations to its boat ramp, and county public works director Eddie Bellamy said the county was still looking for ways to pay for security lighting improvements at the Russ Point, Edgar Glenn and H.E. Trask boat landings.

These projects might pass without the fanfare of a new public building or be less conspicuous than a new bridge.

But they are as worthwhile as they are simple because they connect us to our history and to a natural asset that has long defined this place.