Last week, the Isle of Palms Town Council relaxed some of the parking restrictions that went into effect during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in about 70 percent of the available parking to be open for beach access.
As a Mount Pleasant resident with two young children, I am grateful for their decision. Our beaches are a public treasure, and they are maintained periodically using state and federal tax money. They must remain accessible to all people. During the pandemic, it makes sense to disperse visitors, not concentrate them in one area like had been occurring.
But I also want to let the beach communities of Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island know that I am sensitive to the problems with parking and infrastructure they are experiencing. The situation is exacerbated by the pandemic, but it is caused by the tremendous growth to our region, lack of consistent investment by the state, rigid rules about how Accommodations Tax dollars are used and insufficient coordination between governments. Much of the obligation to maintain our coast, and the access to it, falls on the shoulders of our beach communities. We all need to recognize and appreciate that fact.
The role of a good state representative is to serve as a facilitator of local, state and federal entities to solve the major problems we face. As the next representative for State House District 112, which includes Mount Pleasant as well as Sullivan’s Island and the Isle of Palms, I will be the new leader our community needs to solve this and other challenges. I will facilitate constructive dialogue between local elected officials and other stakeholders while strongly advocating for our area in the State House.
Now more than ever, we need everyone to get into the same room, so to speak. Only then can we identify the specific problems affecting our island communities and the public’s access to the beach. Once we lay everything out on the table, I have confidence that we can work together to move forward in a way that will benefit everyone. The solution likely requires a combination of local and state measures. Some interesting ideas have already started to emerge, including park-and-ride beach shuttles, changing how A-tax money can be used and improving bicycle safety along the IOP Connector.
The simple truth is that in addition to the richness they provide to our lives, our beaches are a major economic driver for all of South Carolina. It is well past time for our state to recognize our beach communities as such and provide us with the resources we need to maintain and improve access to our beautiful coastline.