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Proposed task force could shape Shem Creek's future

MT. PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) -

Mt. Pleasant town council will discuss a new committee Tuesday that could influence the future of Shem Creek.

Councilman Jim Owens said he hopes town leaders will move forward with a proposed task force dedicated to Shem Creek and preserving the creek area as a working waterfront.

Both Owens and leaders of nonprofit Save Shem Creek said they collaborated to bring the idea for an advisory committee to council’s consideration.

“Without the fishing industry in Shem Creek, it becomes just another creek in my opinion,” Jimmy Bagwell, of Save Shem Creek, said in advance of Tuesday’s meeting.  Bagwell said he hopes the task force, if approved, would prioritize supporting the fleet.

“I think it’s trying to preserving the fishing fleet as we know it and grow it but also guide the development of Shem Creek in the future,” Bagwell added.

Save Shem Creek and the town of Mt. Pleasant settled a lawsuit in late March over plans for a mixed-used building near Shem Creek. Bagwell and Councilman Owens both said they building a task force could bring the community back together after months of contention.

“We’re going to try and work together,” Bagwell said. “We’re going to try and bury the hatchet and move on and do what’s best for the community and for Shem Creek.”

Local photographer Glyn Cowden said the creek is a living symbol for Mt. Pleasant.

“Shem Creek is iconic to Mount Pleasant,” Cowden said. “It’s iconic as the Statue of Liberty is to New York Harbor. To not see boats out here loading and unloading fish out here would be a travesty.”

Councilman Owens said the task force could consist of community members and leaders, business owners and local fisherman; the group could advise town leaders on issues affecting the creek and the fleet, like dock space and development. Some locals like Dee Alessandro just hope a task force  ould offer an opportunity for developers and preservationists to work together.

“You could have a group that would represent the construction side, where we need to build and make room for more people coming in,” Alessandro said. “And also the fisherman enjoying this area and preserve what they have brought over the years and not just push them to the side.”

Cowden said maintaining Shem Creek is a goal that goes beyond any one group.

“It’s not just a couple of guys catching shrimp,” Cowden said. “It goes to the restauranteurs; it goes to the businesses around here. It is an industry and it’s always been an industry and without it, it’s not Mt. Pleasant anymore.”

Mt. Pleasant Mayor Linda Page said she’d support a Shem Creek task force, operating under a limited time frame.  The mayor said it’d be good to have town officials help collect needed data, but going forward, she said Save Shem Creek is in the best position to focus on preservation, given their nonprofit status and means to raise needed funds.

Town council is expected to consider the task force during their scheduled meeting, 6 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers.

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