By Jacob Flannick
The Town of Kiawah is preparing the island for a makeover. With a few small-scale renovation plans in the works, the Town is aiming to improve accessibility and revamp safety features throughout the island.
The project, funded by a county grant, encompasses three focus areas: Furnishing the island’s parkway with handrails and raising a shoreline access ramp near the marsh, in an effort to prevent erosion and enable wheel chair accessibility; installing handrails and extending the walkway along the fishing pier’s boardwalk; and laying a 650-foot long unpaved, porous walking and bike path from the end of the paved bike trail on Beachwalker Drive to the county park entrance.
Engineer David McSweeney of McSweeney Engineering, who’s overseeing the project’s design, says the Town intends to upgrade the island’s potentially-hazardous infrastructure with an environmentally-friendly approach. “It’ll definitely bring in some extra safety features, with a few added sustainability aspects, too,” he says, noting the project’s eco-friendly initiatives extend down to the construction material planned for use, including thermally-modified timber from local Southern yellow pine trees. “This is something we’re definitely interested in pursuing.”
Liz King, director of Outdoor Programs for Kiawah Island Golf Resort, says she’s pushed in the past for renovations around Kiawah, particularly on the island’s readily-frequented fishing pier. “I love to see residents and guests take advantage of the island’s fishing and crabbing ponds; but, out on that pier, there’s nothing to prevent a child from falling in the water,” she says, noting alligators are a common sight throughout fishing holes speckled across the island, specifically near the pier. “A lot of people go fishing out there and, for safety reasons, this is definitely something that is needed.”
The Town sought out county funding last Oct. for the project, according to McSweeney, who submitted preliminary drawings of the project’s blueprint for county review, ultimately winning County Council’s approval.
According to Kiawah’s Town administrator Tumiko Rucker, the Town received approximately $120,316 in grant funds for the project from Charleston County’s Greenbelt Plan, an environmentally-conscious grant program distributing the county’s Transportation Sales Tax toward various municipalities, in an effort to expedite sustainable, preservation-minded projects throughout the county.
Adopted in Jan. of 2007 by County Council, the Greenbelt program aims to preserve 40,000 acres within the county, already taking hold of 17,628 acres in conjunction with Charleston County Parks and Recreation, according to Greenbelt Programs director Cathy Ruff.
In order to accommodate each municipalities’ unique environmental condition, the program relies heavily on public input, according to Ruff. Kiawah, she says, is the first beach municipality putting to use funds set aside by the county toward beach communities’ projects for minor improvements.
Rucker says the Town will receive contracting bids until Nov. 21 and, after selecting a contractor, plans in early Jan. to roll out the project.
Viewing the project as upholding Kiawah’s accommodating, polished character, the Resort’s King says the island will reap long-term benefits from the renovations. “The primary goal for Kiawah is to allow guests and residents to experience everything Kiawah has to offer without a negative effect,” she says. “These improvements speak to that, and I’m glad to see they’re working on this.”