Folly Beach County Park officially reopened its gates for visitors on Wednesday, July 3.
Folly Beach County Park had been closed for public access since August 2011, when the park, owned by the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission, suffered heavy erosion from Hurricane Irene. The storm rendered certain facilities inaccessible, forcing closure of the property and eliminating public access and parking for over 400 cars on the west end of Folly Island. The park had served as a public beach access area for thousands of area residents since its opening in 1982.
The initial phase of the renourishment began in 2012 with a comprehensive study by CCPRC’s consulting engineers, Coastal Science and Engineering, who determined that the construction of a terminal groin would help retain the beach of FBCP over time. The Army Corps of Engineers and the South Carolina DHEC Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management approved the permits, which allowed the excavation of approximately 415,000 cubic yards of sand from a shoal in the Folly River. As part of the permitting process, CCPRC had to demonstrate that the project would not adversely impact the federal renourishment of Folly Beach.
On May 5, 2013, a stabilization project began with pumping sand, and continued with the construction of a terminal groin. The terminal groin is a 745-foot-long low-profile steel structure located at the southernmost end of the property and is designed to trap and hold southerly flowing sand in place, while excess sand is expected to flow over and around the groin to rebuild the end of the spit. The project was funded through a CCPRC Capital Projects bond.
Dr. Tim Kana, President of Coastal Science & Engineering (CSE), the firm that designed the beach restoration project, said that he was pleased to see the outcome after years of planning. “Visitors will find a much larger expanse of beach than normal until some dunes develop and vegetation starts to grow. The groin will be buried along most of its length and should not interfere with beach access to the end of the spit.”
The restoration will provide a beach and dune area that will facilitate sea turtle nesting and shorebird habitat. Steven Traynum, CSE’s project manager, said construction was completed in record time in less than two months without environmental incident. Traynum said, “We even had our first turtle nest on the new beach this week.”
“We all know that beach access is important to our area, but what is more important to an agency that promotes safety as one of its core values is the opportunity to have 1400 additional feet of lifeguarded beach,” said CCPRC Executive Director Tom O’Rourke.
“Our beach safety record has won national awards and we are happy that the community will have this option. And we are even more excited to be able to open our beach by the July 4 holiday,” said O’Rourke. Future plans for FBCP may also provide for concessions and other amenities.
Folly Beach County Park resumes its former hours of operation, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. daily through Labor Day, offering over over 200 beach-side parking spaces, lifeguarded shores, and portable restrooms. Admission to the park is $8 per vehicle or free for CCPRC Gold Pass holders.
Folly Beach County Park is one of three seasonally lifeguarded beachfront parks managed by CCPRC. Isle of Palms County Park and Kiawah Beachwalker Park are also managed by the agency, in addition to a portion of the beachfront area around the Folly Beach Fishing Pier.