If you were planning to spend Memorial Day weekend at Hunting Island State Park, you’ll need to change those plans.
This week’s flooding has delayed the park’s scheduled reopening a week, until Friday, June 2.
The park had been scheduled to open the Friday before Memorial Day, the first time visitors would be welcomed there since Hurricane Matthew in October. But damage done by this week’s severe storms made that impossible, said Dawn Dawson-House, director of corporate communications for the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.
“The State Park Service is delaying the reopening of Hunting Island State Park for at least one week after storms dropped about 7 inches of rain in less than 36 hours,” a department news release said Thursday morning. “Not only did the rainfall abruptly suspend the final phases of recovery, it caused flooding that would make the park unsafe for visitors.”
“We are heartbroken over the turn of events this week,” said Duane Parrish, the department’s director, in the release. “We were looking forward to welcoming the thousands of families who enjoy the park every spring and summer. But we’re going to do everything we reasonably can to get the park ready for next week.”
State Representative Shannon Erickson said she knows Parrish had the community’s safety in mind when making the call to keep the park closed for another week.
“So many people have worked so hard to get the park reopened, but, as with Hurricane Matthew, Mother Nature had different plans,” Erickson said. “I know there will be much disappointment but hope everyone will be understanding and make plans to attend the reopening with us in the near future.”
Photos show heavy flooding in the park, with water pooled in the already-limited parking areas. About a third of the park’s available parking was destroyed by Matthew making the current flooding particularly problematic, the release said.
The park is still recovering from the hurricane damage. The Memorial Day weekend opening did not include the campground area, which is still expected to reopen mid-June, according to the department.
However, the reopening was slated to include a large portion of the beloved park — including North and South beach, the freshwater lagoon and many of the nature trails.
Friends of Hunting Island Park had planned work days earlier this week, hoping to make cosmetic repairs prior to the reopening. Due to the storms, those work days were canceled.
The Friends group’s plans included building picnic tables, painting the lighthouse fence and clearing debris from the trails.
But until the flooding recedes, those plans will have to wait.