HUNTING ISLAND, Sc. (WSAV) – Seven months after Hurricane Matthew, Hunting Island State Park is officially reopening its North and South beaches to the public.
“It’s a little bit different in certain areas of North Beach because we lost a lot of the trees– the area right here by the light house we lost a lot of the dunes,” said Daniel Gambrell, the park manager,
Before the hurricane, the beach side park hosted about a million visitors every year.
“Right after the hurricane… We had thousands of trees down you know, all over the park um so it was kind of like you couldn’t really tell where you were, a lot of standing water everywhere,” said Gambrell.
The popular park was was devastated…no one knew how it’d ever recover, but park staff didn’t let that stop them.
“Everybody has been really busy working, working every day of the week, trying to get this place back ready for everybody,” said Gambrell, “It’s just not the same without the laughter and the kids playing on the beach and everything going on and people camping and campfires with smoke….I’m extremely excited about getting people back into the park so it feels normal again.”
The North and South beaches are set to open May 26th, kicking off the summer with Memorial Day Weekend. The park lost quite a bit of its parking to the hurricane, so that’s one thing Gambrell says people should keep in mind. He advises coming early in the morning or late in the afternoon because they do expect to reach capacity.
“It’s a little but more open looking. Still have lots of beach, maybe even more beach than we had before,” he said, “It is very different… but it, to me, has become a really gorgeous place.”
The beach side of the campground lost it’s camping facilities, but there are still 100 spots further in the park. Gambrell says they have been redone, but the campground won’t be open to the public until mid to late June when the utilities and restrooms are complete.
The trees that once covered the campground have all been cleared, except for the very few that survived the hurricane — South Carolina’s symbolic Palmetto tree.
“They are able to bend a little but more than the pine trees and the oak trees so as the wind blows, they can kind of blow with the wind and stand back up,” Gambrell said.
Friends of Hunting Island State Park is looking for volunteers to help build new picnic benches Monday-Wednesday, May 22-24.
If you’d like to help, you can contact Friends of Hunting Island State Park here.