Hunting Island State Park to remain closed through Memorial Day

Source: Live 5 News
Source: Live 5 News
Source: Live 5 News
Source: Live 5 News
Source: Live 5 News
Source: Live 5 News

BEAUFORT COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Hunting Island State Park is struggling to recover from the early October destruction, and it may be the middle of next year before the park's most popular spots are ready to receive visitors again.

Orange barricades and a park ranger block the entrance where more than a million visitors flock each year, and for good reason.

Once you get inside, it looks like the hurricane just hit yesterday.

"This was a campsite that was here you can see this is the fire ring that was on the site," said Park Director Daniel Gambrell who pointed out the damage at the park."There is about a foot of sand on this site right now."

When Hurricane Matthew hit, water overtook the Lowcountry barrier Islands.

Gambrell says nine-foot storm surges submerged the park, forcing them to shut down everything except the nature center.

"We walked into the main use areas after the storm," Gambrell said."Probably 75 percent of the park was under water that we walked through at that time."

Initially, people were told Hunting Island would remain closed for the rest of the year.

Now State Park officials say portions of the attraction won't be ready until Memorial Day at the earliest.

No visitors means no revenue.

While officials can't say the exact amount it will take to restore Hunting Island, it's likely to be significant.

There are thousands of downed trees, and crews will also need to restoe nearly five miles of beach.

A glimmer of hope is the beloved Hunting Island Light House was virtually unharmed.

Park officials say it will join the North Beach as the first spots to open.

"This is a special place," Gambrell said."A lot of people really enjoy this park and we're going to make sure we get it back open."

The park will never again look the way it did before Hurricane Matthew came hammering in.

But park officials are working and planning for a rebound of a far greater force.

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