Future of Folly Beach County Park in peril

Folly Beach County Park

By Eric

FOLLY BEACH, S.C. (WCIV) -- Folly Beach County Park is now in danger of falling off the Edge of America for good. A last ditch effort to save the beach -- and the park -- could be stopped before it starts.

As the tide rises on Folly Beach, time gets scarce. Folly Beach park is in trouble. To save it, Charleston County Parks wants to take action.

"If we miss that window because of a challenge, a lawsuit from an outside group, then there's a very strong possibility the beach will be gone forever," said Park and Recreation executive director Tom O'Rourke. "People ask if we'll walk away, I say, 'No, we'll probably swim away.'"

O'Rourke's plan is to build a groin, essentially a structure the goes out into the water from shore about 200 feet. You'd rarely see it. It will help with erosion on the beach and keep the sand from washing away; the very issue this part of Folly's been fighting for years.

"It's been proven, it's been documented that the federal government, with the construction of the jetties, caused the original erosion problems at Folly Beach," said O'Rourke.

Dana Beach with the Coastal Conservation League fears that while helping Folly, a groin would strip sand from rare bird-nesting habitats nearby.

"The concern we have is this groin will wipe it out," Beach said.

What's more, Beach believes the project doesn't solve the long term threat of erosion.

"To what extent should the PRC be spending our money trying to stabilize something everyone knows is highly erosional," Beach questioned.

There's even the possibility the CCL would take legal action to prevent the groin from being built.

"It is (a possibility)? Yes. We hope we can work something out with them and PRC has been a good partner on things," Beach said. "In fact, they've protected a lot of habitats themselves, so we hope we can work something out."

The park remains a shell of what it was just a couple of years ago prior to Hurricane Irene. Whether it continues to be overgrown and overrun with high tides, that answer could be coming pretty soon.

O'Rourke believes if construction on the groin is not started by March and finished by next May, Folly Beach County Park will not survive.