New data shows growth booming along U.S. 278 in Hardeeville and Bluffton.
To a lesser degree, Port Royal, Hilton Head Island and Beaufort also have gained population since 2010. Hardeeville's 53 percent growth stands out, as does the 13 percent increase in Bluffton.
That's a healthy turnaround from the down days of the recession.
But we know a lot about growth in Beaufort County, which is ranked among the nation's fastest-growing metropolitan areas. For decades, attracting growth and then dealing with it has been the greatest local challenge.
What we have learned takes on new significance today.
We have learned that planning needs to be regional because rivers, streams and traffic flow through numerous jurisdictions. That means that what Hardeeville does matters to Bluffton and Beaufort County as well as Jasper County. It means that we need to think in terms of watersheds, not counties and towns. It means that local governments need to act in unison for the common good.
We know that regulations designed to mitigate the impact of growth are only as good as the enforcement. If nobody is watching while someone clear-cuts 160 acres, an ordinance designed to protect every tree is worthless. If growth limits are put in place for a sensitive area, what good does it do if the limits can be ignored by way of an annexation?
We know that stormwater runoff is public enemy No. 1 in an area saturated with rivers, creeks and marshes. And we know the tipping point where the amount of pavement and rooftops will damage the creeks. We know that the community will exceed that tipping point, so policy must include a reduction in density and more careful plotting of the growth.
We know that the truest way for governments to control land use is to own the land or the development rights, and we must continue that approach.
We know that not all ships rise with the tide of growth. Hilton Head, where the growth boom started and where property values indicate great wealth, has an underbelly of poverty that affects a high percentage of its children.
The growth that should bring greater occupational opportunity will also require more social services. Volunteers and nonprofits will strain to keep up with demand.
At this point, we must be wise enough to guide growth to avoid well-known problems.