Hilton Head residents want the buoy to stay, Town says it’s got to go

HILTON HEAD, Sc. (WSAV) – The Coast Guard buoy that washed ashore Coligny Beach during Tropical Storm Irma isn’t going anywhere just yet. It was supposed to be picked up weeks ago and a contractor even tried to load it in a truck Monday, but it couldn’t be safely secured, which some see as a small victory.

“It all started the day after the hurricane that I became aware of the buoy and I came out and I took a picture and I posted it on Facebook and it went viral,” said Thomas Love, a photographer on Hilton Head Island.

Love says the 13,000 lb. red buoy is true art.

“It’s really become such a big tourist spot, there’s probably 20-30 people at any day, any hour, every minute, taking their pictures with it,” Love said.

And he’s right, a month after Irma and people are still stopping by to snap a picture. That’s why love and a few others started a Facebook page “Save The #8 Buoy.”

“It’s an interesting landmark, it would be a great piece of art to have on the island,” Love said.

But the town says this art installation is temporary.

“It’s kind of like when people do little art displays and they last for a month, and then they go away. It’s kinda that thing,” said Hilton Head Town Manager Steve Riley.

Even if the town paid the Coast Guard $24,000 to keep it, they say it’s not actually generating tourism.

“I don’t know that anybody is flying in here to see that thing,” said Riley, “I’ve talked to people who say, ‘I haven’t gone to the beach in two years, and now I’ve gone out to the beach!’ Okay…. But that didn’t really move the needle on tourism or anything.”

Tourists visiting the buoy Tuesday said they heard about it while back home up north…

“Just to see the mass of it and how it washed up on shore here is pretty neat…” said Rob Brehm from Ohio.

But their vacations were booked well before Irma, the Brehm’s 20 years in a row.

For locals, its more than a Christmas card… It’s resilience.

“We’d like to keep the buoy on the island as a piece of artwork,” said Love, “And a symbol of….. you know, us.”

The Coast Guard met with the contractor Tuesday to discuss how they can secure it safely on the truck and get it back to its home at the mouth of the Port Royal Sound.

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