State

Itching to camp at Hunting Island? Here’s what you need to know

A beach access point at the campground at Hunting Island State Park is shown on May 19. Though the rest of the park has reopend, Hurricane Matthew did a lot of damage to the campground, which will remain closed until repairs are complete.
A beach access point at the campground at Hunting Island State Park is shown on May 19. Though the rest of the park has reopend, Hurricane Matthew did a lot of damage to the campground, which will remain closed until repairs are complete. jkarr@islandpacket.com

Those eager to get back under the stars on Hunting Island State Park should keep their eye on the weather and the phone nearby.

Park officials had hoped to have the campground reopened by the middle of June. But reservations are now being canceled through the end of the month.

The new target is the first weekend of July ahead of the Fourth of July holiday.

“The only thing I know right now that will delay it is if we have another weather event,” said Dawn Dawson-House, spokeswoman for S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

The weather has continued to cast a shadow on the park’s recovery efforts since Hurricane Matthew. The barrier island was expected to reopen to visitors for Memorial Day weekend before sustained rains flooded areas of the park and pushed back the date.

The 100 campsites will reopen with improved electrical and water service. Oceanfront campsites lost to Hurricane Matthew will be replaced with day-use picnic and parking areas.

On June 2, the park reopened for the first time since the hurricane in October. The South Beach, North Beach, lighthouse gift shop, lagoon, most park trails, the visitor and nature centers and part of the fishing pier are open to visitors.

Other areas remain restricted. Thousands of damaged and dead trees have been removed from the park, with more to follow.

Despite anticipated parking issues with hundreds of spaces lost, the park hasn’t reached capacity since reopening, Friends of Hunting Island president Denise Parsick said,

An electronic marquee on St. Helena Island will tell visitors whether the park is open or closed. If it says closed, visitors should turn around and try again in a couple of hours as more parking becomes available, Parsick said.

A closed message doesn’t necessarily mean the park will be closed for the day but enough time will be allowed for ample parking to become available.

“They’re not going to do one car out, one car in kind of deal,” Parsick said.

Volunteers have painted most of the new wooden fence around the lighthouse and will eventually install new sand fencing to help restore the beach dunes.

Park officials ask visitors to call 843-838-2011 for updated information and to follow the state park service on social media.

Stephen Fastenau: 843-706-8182, @IPBG_Stephen

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