What 2016 holds for the ‘Edge of America’
By Bill Davis | Staff Writer
There is certainly plenty to nourish on Folly Beach. From the funky, small-town feel, to the surfing, to the growing amenities that welcome more and more travelers every year to the island.
So, there must be something more pressing than renourishing the beach in the wake of Hurricane Joaquin and ongoing damage from the Charleston jetties in the coming year. Right?!
Mayor Tim Goodwin: “One of the biggest problems is the continuous erosion and subsequent renourishment of the beach that is always at the top of the list.”
City Administrator Spencer Wetmore: “Renourishing the beach is our number one priority.”
Okay, fine. First, a little about the beach, and the rest of the stuff that’s needed:
It’s no longer news that Folly Beach lost 400,000 cubic yards of sand in October; a little less than a third of all the sand the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dropped on the beach the previous year. The majority of the sand lost was from the eastern end of the barrier island.
Wetmore said the city has hired a lobbyist firm, Southern Strategy Group; to represent Folly’s interest in Columbia and to work with the state and its ports authority to come up with long-term solutions, “not just renourishment.”
She said the city is working on permitting a better grade of sand in the short term. Unfortunately, that sand may have to be jumped through several federal hoops before it can be installed on Folly.
Goodwin said the beach is probably between four and fiver down on the Corps priority list for a full renourishment. “Unfortunately, there are no easy answers here for you or me; it’s a day-by-day process, and it will take going through several layers of bureaucracy to get down to a final answer.”
Goodwin and Wetmore’s to-do list doesn’t stop at the beach, though. Goodwin said officials can never know exactly what’s going to be needed to be fixed next – repaving and fixing roads, improving parks, providing more parking at playgrounds.
The mayor pointed to the project he enjoys working on the most as being the one to get more streetlights installed on the Folly River Bridge.
“People walking, riding bicycles will be a whole lot safer, for everybody,” he said.
Wetmore was excited to report that the Center Street streetscaping project was very close to receiving final approval from the state Department of Transportation.
Currently, Center Street is two lanes, both ways. The plan is to convert those four lanes into one-ways each way with a turn lane in the middle, and parking on both sides to continue.
Wetmore said the project would help traffic flow better by “getting turners out of the way of through-traffic” Additionally, she said, it would become safer for pedestrians because drivers would be better able to see around other cars.
Wetmore said that project dovetailed with municipal plans to make all of Folly more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly.
Lesley Carroll has owned the Jack of Cups Saloon on Center Street for nearly two years on Center Street. And in her short tenure on the island, she has seen too many near misses between cars and pedestrians hailing from Folly and beyond.
“It’s apparent to me that safety is a big thing for Folly. We’re such a tiny little town where it’s important that people can walk around,” says Carroll. “It’s just a fact a lot of people come into town not knowing how it is here.”
Wetmore added that the city is looking to kick-start an effort to bring more planters, furniture, and trash and recycling receptacles to Center Street for a beautification project in the coming year.
First, though, Goodwin said the city must get through a looming municipal budge process and council election, where three seats are up, which could alter how business and politics is done on the island.
“It’s like a cement mixer that’s always churning,” said Goodwin.