Even though a lightning-stoked fire on July 20 toppled the nature center at Huntington Beach State Park, the show will go on for nature programs there this summer.
Anyone who loved seeing the resident animals inside the building, including the turtles, snakes and a stingray, and outside – with bird feeders who most colorful visitors were painted buntings – ought to check out the seven programs salvaged for the season, many with new meeting places from park personnel being so resourceful. It’s carrying on a mission for which the nature center stars were ambassadors, with so many other observations to savor across the park, at any time of year, even in the middle of a frosty winter.
“The animals were the heart and soul of the nature center and a daily part of our lives,” said Mike Walker, a longtime interpretive ranger at the park. “Some had been with us since the building opened back in 2002. I can only hope that the hurt will ease with time.”
Walker relayed an updated park schedule of events, and they include including “Crabbing,” “Coastal Birding,” and “Coastal Kayaking,” as well as the historical tours that continue for Atalaya, the winter home of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington, the park’s namesakes who also founded Brookgreen Gardens.
The park – on U.S. 17, between Murrells Inlet and Litchfield Beach, across from Brookgreen – is open 6 a.m.-10 p.m. daily through Nov. 6, then the park closes earlier in evenings as autumn makes way for winter.
Question | For how long has summer remained the hottest time of year for nature programs at Huntington Beach State Park?
Answer | The summer is very busy for us, but so are spring and fall. And in the spring and fall, we also have tons of school groups and special event programs. The summer is busier for families of campers who come back to the park year after year.
Q. | By shifting meeting places, and making some tweaks in the schedule for the rest of the summer through August, how does such teamwork prove that the show goes on in showcasing one of the Grand Strand's greatest gems?
A. | We are very fortunate to have a great staff, to be part of a great state park service and agency – S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism – and friends and visitors. Everyone has pulled together quickly to get our nature programming back up and running again quickly. We are moving forward and trying to stay positive. Work is already under way to renovate the park’s old concession stand to be used as a temporary office for the nature center staff until the nature center is rebuilt.
The Friends of Huntington Beach State Park, an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization, has set up a Nature Center Rebuilding Fund so that all money donated will go directly to rebuilding the nature center and all the related exhibits. People can donate directly through its website, www.friendshbsp.com, or follow this link: www.friendshbsp.com/419270726/category/433802/donations
Q. | What nature programs have become the most popular through the years?
A. | “Crabbing,” the “Alligators” tour, and both seine netting programs were – and remain – very popular. The “Feeding Time” program at the nature center was also very popular.
Q. | Will the weekly “Coastal Kayaking” remain year-round, and how has turnout been for that since widening that schedule?
A. | Coastal Kayaking is offered year-round, and how many participants we get is very dependent on the weather. The warmer the winter is, the more participation we get.
Also, Gerald Ives, manager for Myrtle Beach State Park, said last week that he saw a Facebook post from Brenda Magers, the Huntington Beach State Park’s manager, whom he credited for a stirring, uplifting photo from outside the former nature center.
“There among the ruins was a bird feeder still standing, and yes, a painted bunting at the feeder,” Ives said. “Tells you that nature carries on.”
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 843-444-1764.
If you go
WHAT: Slew of nature/history programs
WHERE: Huntington Beach State Park, on U.S. 17, between Murrells Inlet and Litchfield Beach, across from Brookgreen Gardens.
HOW MUCH: Many programs free with park admission – $5 for ages 16 and older, $3.25 S.C. seniors, $3 ages 6-15.
SCHEDULE: Through August –
▪ “Alligators,” 10-11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 6-7 p.m. Fridays, all from Atalaya.
▪ “Salt Marsh Seining,” noon-1 p.m. Tuesdays, from Oyster Landing.
▪ “Coastal Birding,” 10-11 a.m. Wednesdays, from causeway parking lot.
▪ “Crabbing” (catch and release), noon-1 p.m.Wednesdays and Fridays, and 2-3 p.m. Saturdays, from Oyster Landing, for $3, with tickets from gift shop.
▪ “Surf Seining,” noon-1 p.m. Thursdays, from beach, in front of gift shop.
▪ “Secrets of the Salt Marsh,” 4-5 p.m. Thursdays, from marsh boardwalk.
▪ “Coastal Kayaking,” 9-11 a.m. Mondays year round, for ages 9 and older, and with adult accompaniment through age 15, in guided, salt-marsh tour. Meet by 8:45 a.m. at park gift shop, then caravan to from Oyster Landing, on U.S. 17 in Murrells Inlet, a half-mile north of park entrance. $35, with preregistration required by calling Black River Outdoors Center at 843-546-4840 by 4 p.m. the previous Sunday.
TOUR HISTORIC ATALAYA: Former winter home of Brookgreen founders Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, for admission of $2 ages 6 and older –
▪ Guided tours, 2-3 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and noon-1 p.m. Saturdays.
▪ Narrated ghost tours, 8:30-9:30 p.m. Fridays, for $3 ages 6 and older, with tickets from gift shop.
▪ Audio tours, lasting 45 minutes, for $4 extra.
ALSO: Annual state park passes, to access sites across South Carolina – including Myrtle Beach State Park – are $75 or $99.