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Hunting Island Lighthouse restoration could begin in late 2020

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Hunting Island Lighthouse. Photo by Bob Sofaly.

By MINDY LUCAS

Visitors to the Hunting Island Lighthouse could see a “closed for repairs” sign on the 160-year-old historic structure due to significant restoration work that could start as late as next year or first of 2021, park officials say.

The work on the lighthouse at Hunting Island State Park is needed due to normal “wear and tear” of the popular visitor destination which, along with five miles of pristine beaches, is the park’s primary draw, said Dawn Dawson-House, a spokeswoman for the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

But exactly what that work will entail and when it will begin remains “speculative” since funding for the project has yet to go through the legislative or permitting process, Dawson-House said.

“We just know this is what our assessment said is needed, but again, it’s too early to tell when work will begin and what all that will involve,” she said.

An assessment of the lighthouse conducted by a Charleston engineering firm last year, found the lighthouse is in need of repair work due to cracks throughout its brick masonry and corrosion to cast iron found in both in the interior and on the structure’s exterior skin.

The firm made a number of long-term conservation recommendations as well as immediate safety suggestions such as limiting the total number of visitors allowed inside the lighthouse at any given time.

The agency will seek funding for the project – which could cost $3 million – for its 2020 – 2021 fiscal year, Dawson-House confirmed.

The lighthouse renovation joins a list of other projects planned in the wake of devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, including a beach restoration project expected to cost $11 million and begin in November.

Dawson-House said usually when a project of this nature is green lighted, the parks system will pick a time when the least amount of visitor traffic will be passing through.

“For Hunting Island, this is usually somewhere after the winter holidays in either January or February,” she said.

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