The Hunting Island Lighthouse in Hunting Island State Park is closed indefinitely. Photo by Tony Kuklich, The Island News.

County receives Hunting Island update 

From staff reports 

Hunting Island State Park Manger Brandon Goff recently updated the Community Services Committee of the Beaufort County Council regarding conditions at the park, the status of park initiatives and the park’s emergency action plan for hurricanes. 

“This update to council and our citizens watching showed the great things happening out at Hunting Island State Park,” said Phil Foot, Assistant County Administrator for Public Safety. “I am sure you will be pleased to hear about all the work that has taken place over the winter.” 

Hunting Island sees an estimated 1 million visitors a year. It is a 5,000-acre secluded semitropical barrier island located 15 miles east of Beaufort. In addition to the lighthouse, Hunting Island’s four miles of beachfront has several trails for hiking and biking. 

“I started with the Park Service 17 years ago, and I’ve had an opportunity to live in some fantastic places from the mountains to the coast,” said Goff. “I spent a large portion of my career on Edisto Beach and was born and raised in South Carolina just outside Myrtle Beach and Conway. I have a vested interest in South Carolina and the coast.” 

The park’s iconic lighthouse was closed in February after engineers deemed it unsafe for visitors and for staff. It will remain closed for the foreseeable future. The Legislature recently approved $3 million that will go toward structural repairs for the only publicly accessible lighthouse in South Carolina. Currently, the project is in the design phase. 

The park’s campground has 125 camping spots and averages about 89 percent capacity. The campground generates 40 percent of the park’s revenue. In 2016, Hurricane Mathew destroyed many campsites that the park service cannot replace due to erosion and other factors. 

“What we’re trying to do is take the 125 campsites that we have and offer the best possible experience we can,” Goff said. “While we understand that we’re not able to accommodate as many, our job now is, with fewer sites, we should be able to offer a better service. That’s what we’re striving to do.” 

The campground roads have all been repaved, and the shoulders are currently being improved. An additional lane has been created to mitigate some traffic backup on heavy check-in days. 

The campground has instituted dynamic pricing in which pricing changes based on season, availability and demand. The park is enforcing check-out and check-in times to allow park employees to do a better job cleaning campsites, making repairs and maintaining a higher standard for the park. 

The beach renourishment initiative is complete. The Park Service continues to meet the obligations associated with the project, like the monitoring of piping plover and red knot populations. 

Hurricane Matthew and the beach renourishment project have severely limited the parking available at the park. The Park Service plans to work with Beaufort County to identify possible mitigation plans. Ideas under consideration include establishing a shuttle service from a location that can support parking and signs notifying visitors early in the drive that there is no parking. The repaving on Highway 21 and king tide mitigation efforts have reduced the number of places you can park along the side of the road. 

Several restrooms on the southern part of the beach were destroyed by Hurricane Matthew. Portable bathrooms have been in use since then. The park will be requesting funding for permanent restrooms as the next major infrastructure project. 

Hunting Island State Park has Standard Operating Procedures and Emergency Operations Plans in case of a hurricane or other disaster. The Park is nested with the county and has a good working relationship with points of contact exchanged. 

To watch a video of Goff’s presentation, visit https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=Vci4wO6JpME

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