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Marine Corps brass consider closing Parris Island? Say it ain’t so!

PORT ROYAL – Talk about closing one of our military bases is like talking about pending hurricanes: Not to be taken lightly. We ARE a military community whether it seems like it or not.

Our three bases – Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, Beaufort Naval Hospital and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort – represent the county’s largest employers. According to the Chamber of Commerce, Parris Island alone employs 6,000 plus and has an annual economic impact of $739 million.

But an article surfaced last week in which the Commandant of the Marine Corps repeated the Congressional directive for an integrated training facility – as in males and females training and living together. And the reporters, equally weary of writing about political campaigns and Supreme Court justices, went into full court press.

The thing is, the Corps brass has been saying for a decade they want integrated training, like the Army and Navy. And questioned, again, whether it wouldn’t be more efficient to close Parris Island and San Diego, the west coast Marine training depot, and centralize training.

Certainly the future of Parris Island is on someone’s long-distance planning list because of its low-lying terrain in a time of rising sea levels.

The timing of this particular debate is also interesting. Roughly a month before a hotly contested national election, political observers have to wonder which candidate would benefit from the threat, who would fight hardest for the base.

Responses from all of the players have been a pledge to fight for the base. And that’s certainly a given.

Anyone who cares about the future of this area will lobby to keep the depot in business.

Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said it best. He’s “skeptical of any rumors, innuendos and suggestions that are coming out of D.C.” right now.

Then he, like the rest of us, will see where things stand.

Good month for those concerned about future

BEAUFORT – It’s just an observation, but those concerned about the environment and how Beaufort County grows had a pretty good record – finally – in September.

The Whitehall subdivision on Lady’s Island, a much-debated project even though the county was able to buy half of the property for a public park, was rejected by the Port Royal-Beaufort Municipal Planning commission primarily because of the traffic impact.

Bay Point Island was “saved” from development by an international hospitality firm when the county Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously rejected those plans.

And a much smaller project – but equally important to the neighbors – was a 4-acre sand mining application in a residential part of Daufuskie Island. As has been seen repeatedly on Lady’s Island and St. Helena, sand mining is a valuable resource for developers who need sand to fill in low-lying areas … to build more.

Now let’s see what appeals get filed and where the courts will take us.

P.S. Of course all the little landscaping trees in the Beaufort Plaza, including the lovely confederate rose in front of the Burton Post Office, were bulldozed to make way for a new landscaping plan suitable of a new Publix. But that’s progress …

Lolita Huckaby Watson is a community volunteer and a former reporter/editorial assistant/columnist with The Beaufort Gazette, The Savannah Morning News, Bluffton Today and Beaufort Today. She can be reached at bftbay@gmail.com.

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