HUNTING ISLAND BEACH
Our island faces the Atlantic Ocean on its eastern shore and provides access to sandy beaches and rolling surf. The natural beauty of the South Carolina coast cannot be matched. Hunting Island is a barrier island, nature's first defense against the onslaughts of the Atlantic Ocean. Its four miles of beachfront take a tremendous pounding from the sea.
Erosion at Hunting Island
Erosion on Hunting Island takes away approximately 15 feet of sand every year. It is one of the fastest eroding beaches on the east coast. And, of course, the offshore
winds generated during the bad hurricane season of 2004 eroded the beach alarmingly — 50 feet disasppeared from the south beach area near Cabin Road. The ocean threatened to wash out the road and join with the lagoon. Federal funds became available to do emergency nourishment in the area most affected, a project now completed.
To help combat the overall erosion, particularly in the area of the lighthouse, the South Carolina legislature put $5 million into the State budget. With other funds already appropriated, the project to pump sand onto the beach in 2006 was completed and to place strategic groins (jetties) on the beach during the winter of 2006 — 2007 is also done. The sand pumping was finished in time for the 2006 turtle season. Human visitors to the park will also find the expanded beach much to their liking.
The fight against erosion is constant and can never be won completely. The hope is that this beach nourishment project will preserve the beach for about 20 years. At the end of that period, more nourishment will almost surely be necessary. It is the only way to save the beach for the future generations of South Carolinians and visitors from all over the country and the world.
"We are delighted to announce our beach re-nourishment was completed ahead of schedule, and we now have approximately 100 feet of beach at high tide for your enjoyment."
The first, single groin on the north end of Hunting Island beach was built in the 1960s. After many storms, much erosion, repeated re-nourishment projects, and extensive study, SCPRT, OCRM, and the US Army Corps of Engineers agreed upon a plan for a groin field to stabilize the latest re-nourishment. (See at left for links)
The groins are designed to be invisible at high tide. They inhibit the lateral movement of the sands pumped onto the beach last year. Experts believe the groins are doing the job they were intended to do. Scouring and sandbar increase at both ends of the Island are reported to be part of the natural beach evolution. Owners of cabins on the south end have requested permission from DNR &OCRM to replenish the sand by moving some of the buildup in Fripp Inlet.
Beach, Turtles, & the Environment
With new sand comes more opportunities for the Friends of Hunting Island to contribute to the continuing effectiveness and enjoyment of our beach.
The 2007 Turtle teams found that although the groin construction was still being finished when the season began, the mommas used the new beach as usual for nesting. But, in some areas of the re-nourishment the sands seemed too heavy for hatchlings to dig up and out. For all that did make their way to the sea, we wish them well in their journey to the Gulf Stream and beyond. Check this year's blog for the on-going tale of the beach and our loggerheads.
One way we help the loggerheads, as well as protect the campground and picnic areas, is through the on-going dune building efforts of our Environment volunteers. The extensive sand fencing (with turtle gaps) helps trap blown sand in natural deposits that are less compacted than pumped sand.
We attempt to stabilize these sand hills with native plantings, the roots of which spread into complex systems that contribute reinforcement to the dunes in order to keep the sea from washing out roads, parking areas, picnic tables, and campsites.
The sea breezes blow, the tide washes in, and visitors forget their garbage. Our Trash teams (as well as turtlers, environmentees, and most other Friends members) pick it up. We hold litter pick-up events following holidays and beach sweeps on a regular basis. When visiting the beach, contribute to our coastal stewardship and haul out what you haul in.
Thanks for your cooperation, and see you at the beach!