Phil Gaines, director of S.C. State Parks, was on his way to Huntington Beach and Myrtle Beach state parks Monday afternoon after assessing the scene at Hunting Island State Park and at Edisto Beach State Park, both of which are southwest of Charleston.
Gauging plans for both Grand Strand sites, Gaines said assessing damage and addressing safety lead in priority as crews work to get the attractions back open since their closure Friday, ahead of the storm on Saturday.
Summarizing the situation at all four coastal parks, Gaines said tree damage makes up the biggest issue, along with beach erosion, and that Hunting Island, southeast of Beaufort, “was probably the hardest hit” overall among all 13 state parks closed since the storm.
Work continues on making sure each place is safe for parks staff to return and start the cleanup, expedited by teamwork. Gaines said personnel from other state parks will be brought in to the affected sites to help speed up the process toward reopening each site as soon as possible.
“The good news,” he said, regarding Myrtle Beach and Huntington Beach state parks, “is most of the damage is tree damage.”
Gaines said “it appears” the Myrtle Beach State Park pier — built in 1992 and rebuilt three times through the decades — is OK, and that engineers’ inspections make up the next step “to address any of those issues.”
At Huntington Beach State Park, between Murrells Inlet and Litchfield Beach, initial reports show that Atalaya, the former residence of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington, who were the founders of Brookgreen Gardens, also “has survived the storm,” Gaines said.
Some flooding issues, especially on the causeway — which bisects salt and freshwater marshes – left some damage to guardrails along that passage, Gaines said, deeming that matter “minor,” with no apparent undermining of that vital road itself.
“We’re really fortunate,” he said of the aftermath at both local parks, “that it was not as bad as it could have been.”
Gaines foresees the closures of Hunting Island and Edisto state parks lasting longer than those at Myrtle Beach and Huntington Beach, so patience is appreciated, all with safety first in mind for park employees and all visitors.
“Communication has been really key during this storm,” Gaines said, also crediting “a lot of folks working together, from state agencies to local communities.”
Contact Steve Palisin at 843-444-1764.