Sullivan’s Island to Expand Scenic Nature Trail

After securing a $100,000 grant from SC Parks Recreation & Tourism Department, the scenic SI Nature Trail at Station 16, already enjoyed by so many, will be expanded to incorporate a ¾-mile sand trail, connecting the SI Lighthouse with Fort Moultrie!

The new trail will be 3 times as long as the original trail, and matting to support wheelchairs will run from the new handicapped accessible Station 18 beach path to Station 18 1/2 and the
lighthouse. Benches will be situated along the trail to allow nature lovers to rest and absorb the abundant beauty in this pristine maritime environment. This is the next step in bringing the vision described in the 1991 land trust deed to life, and we applaud Town Administration and Town Council for continuing to expand opportunities for the public to interact in a sensitive, low-impact way.

As planned, the trail would mostly follow an existing dune ridge line and would dodge all major trees. Assistant Town Manager Joe Henderson tells us that much of the route would simply improve an informal path already cut through the area by dog walkers and others exploring the forest. It also would provide a new link between two National Park Service sites: the Fort Moultrie National Historical Park and the lighthouse.

As with the original 2015 trail, the new path would be packed earth, not asphalt, though a few sections of boardwalk would be built over the lowest lying areas. Ramps would be added where the path crosses the new handicapped-accessible beach access path at Station 18, and matting that supports wheelchairs would run from that path to Station 18½ and the lighthouse. A half dozen benches would dot the new path for those seeking to take a break.

The route would enable residents and visitors to catch glimpses of birds, rabbits, ghost crab and other species that are at home in the forest, and it also would reward hikers with glimpses of the ocean at some of its highest points.

The town got good news recently from the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Commission, which awarded it $100,000 toward the trail’s roughly $144,000 total cost, and we urge town officials to do what they can to get it built as soon as possible. As Sullivan’s Island Town Councilman Gary Visser notes in PRT’s announcement: “Sullivan’s Island represents a unique government, community, and ecosystem where every effort has been made to balance important issues. The community is respectful of the people of South Carolina who own our beaches and make investments in providing ADA access to that resource. We are ever mindful of our stewardship of this resource for our state’s residents and for the visitors who travel to enrich their lives in this unique habitat.”

The new trail would be at least three times as long as the initial 2015 trail and open up glimpses of largely unexplored sections of the forest. We urge town officials to provide increased public access along other parts of the forest, which stretches east for another mile beyond the lighthouse. That part of the forest is not as wide, but it’s still growing.

Importantly, expanded public trails and access should help even more people understand what the maritime forest really is. This unusual accreted land technically belongs to the town, but it really belongs to all of us. The more we can explore it and marvel at what’s there, the more we all can appreciate the special gift that it is and ensure we make the right decisions about how to care for it.