Up the creek: The history and the muck

  • Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A small walking bridge will be used to connect the docks along Shem Creek.

Photos

While officials unveiled Phase II of Shem Creek Park last week, visitors to the existing attraction not only enjoyed leisurely strolls but were treated to historical interpretations of Shem Creek.

Ten interpretative signs were recently installed at the park. Carol Poplin with Brockington and Associates was the designer. The last five panels to be installed are part of a DHEC-OCRM Coastal Access Grant.

The signs are part of the Shem Creek Master Plan approved by Mount Pleasant Town Council in 2007. They tell visitors of the park about the local shrimping industry, history of the creek, ecology and fun facts related to the shrimping industry and the creek.

The park is not just a place for another walk on a boardwalk; it is an area that has significant history and has seen many changes over the years. Specific dates are unknown, but information from the 1980 Shem Creek Management Plan states, “Sometime prior to 1784, a saw mill known as Greenwich Mill was constructed alongside the creek.” A second mill, built in 1795 by Jonathan Lucas, was the first of its kind to be a water power driven saw and rice mill. Shem Creek has seen turtle farming, boat building, crab plant and oyster cannery. Shrimping was introduced by William C Magwood in the 1930s.

“The creek has been and will continue to be a unique resource to this area,” said planning engineer Kevin Mitchell. As a planner with the Town of Mount Pleasant, he has overseen the Shem Creek Park project. Mitchell added and as our former Mayor Harry Hallman said in the 2002 Preserving the Character of Shem Creek, “Shem Creek is the signature of Mount Pleasant.”

Other noticeable activity along the creek includes the Army Corps of Engineers’ offer to the Town of Mount Pleasant to dredge portions of the creek.

Mitchell said this partnership opportunity is a great opportunity to capitalize on the Corps’ project that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive as an independent town project.

This October, the ACOE will mobilize to begin dredging the Shem Creek channel and the Anchorage Basin. The federal navigation channel extends from Coleman Boulevard to the westward tip of Sullivan’s Island. The width is centered on the navigational portion of the creek, and does not encompass the full width. The Anchorage Basin is a temporary holding area for cargo ships located in the vicinity of the channel that is used for emergency purposes to hold cargo ships needing repairs or refueling. Without this area, a lame ship would otherwise block the shipping channel or the port.

The Corps is offering the town an opportunity, through a Memorandum of Agreement, the ability to contract directly with the dredging contractor to extend the limits of the dredging to the embankment just along the park site, outside the navigational channel. The town’s portion will entail removing the sediment along the existing fixed pier and float structures fronting the creek. This area is not in immediate need of dredging at this time.

“We are simply trying to take advantage of an opportunity that would otherwise be too costly to mobilize as an independent project and capitalize on a federally funded project that may not be available again,” Mitchell said.

Mobilization involves laying a large diameter pipe along the bottom of the harbor to the borrow site at Morris Island, five miles from Shem Creek. There is no other depository reserved for the excavated material from Shem Creek other than Morris Island. As federal funds remain available, the creek dredging will occur once every 10 years, which is primarily used to support the shrimping industry. “Budget cuts and the decline of the shrimping industry may prevent this from occurring in the foreseeable future and preventing the town from having this opportunity again,” he explained.

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