Boardwalks on Sullivan’s Island have long provided convenience for foot traffic to and from the beach. The town’s recently proposed boardwalk construction at Sullivan’s Island Elementary School (SIES) aims to foster more beach activity by enabling direct access from the parking lot to the sand.
In 2015-16, Sullivan’s Island in conjunction with Charleston County Council, the town constructed a boardwalk access from the schoolyard to the beach. Now, pending the financial aid of a Charleston County Greenbelt Program $35,000 grant, the town plans to extend the current structure an additional 300 feet.
In recent years the town has been granted Greenbelt money for boardwalk expenditures at Station 16’s Nature Trail. This project to utilize the town’s open space is no different except that it benefits beachgoers in need of weekend parking.
“That part of the beach is kind of unused. Somebody can park at the school but they either have to walk all the way to Station 21 or 19 to get out on the beach,” said Sullivan’s Island Town Administrator Andy Benke. “It’s good, easy parking but there’s no access to the beach directly in front of the school.”
Benke says the goal is to make use of SIES parking lot, which is available to visitors all hours on Saturday and Sunday.
In addition to the boardwalk construction at the school, the town is also setting aside Hospitality Tax Funds for boardwalk repairs at Station 25 and 26. Approximately $100,000 will be allocated for remodifications to the preexisting boardwalks.
Carolina Dock and Marine has been contracted for all of the boardwalk construction. Benke says the town has entrusted them for virtually all of their boardwalk services over the past five years.
“The town itself does some routine maintenance with their crews as far as changing some deck boards, but the problem is the framing has gotten to the point where it does need to be replaced,” said Derek Astroino, president and co-owner of Carolina Dock and Marine.
The town unanimously decided now is the time to fix the boardwalks, which are in unsatisfactory condition due to the weathering of heavy rainfalls. Recently, council members have expressed that without repairs they would be hard pressed not to close the boardwalks at Stations 25 and 26 for safety purposes.
“It’s treated lumber but it only lasts so long,” Benke said.
The average lifespan of boardwalks on Sullivan’s Island is 18 to 20 years. The longest standing boardwalk on the island contains woodwork that exceeds 30 years, according to Benke.
“Part of it is utilization. When they’re covered with water for three weeks nobody can use them,” Benke said.
This time around the boardwalks will be raised 3 feet above grade, about 2 feet higher than its current height, to account for anticipated levels of submersion documented in recent years. Benke said the the logic and reasoning behind this decision came from firsthand experience of seasonal affects on the boardwalks.
The new boardwalk heights were determined by measuring the heights of other boardwalks and dunes. They also compared to those that aren’t affected by water. The reason the boardwalks aren’t raised too high is because of the potential threat of a fall hazard.
“We’ll get them up and hopefully they can stay open all year round regardless of how much rain,” Benke said. “We’re not building it for the 500 year rain event but hopefully under normal circumstances.”
Boardwalks repairs at Station 25 and 26 are projected to take 3 weeks each prior to construction at SIES, according to Astroino. All boardwalk construction is expected to be completed by sometime in June.