Gavin McIntyre / Charleston Post Courier

SC - The 2020 Battle Over SC Public Beach Access and Parking Ends the Year in a Draw

First came the roadblocks, barring nonresidents from visiting Charleston barrier islands during the pandemic.

Then came parking restrictions and talk of eliminating free parking near the beaches. And all the while concerns about beach visitors spreading the novel coronavirus morphed into longstanding concerns about beach traffic.

2020 became the year Charleston area residents feared losing the ability to take a walk on the beach without having to pay.

Sullivan’s Island considered a plan to charge for parking. Isle of Palms proposed eliminating all free parking for nonresidents — and raised parking rates in paid areas, too. Folly Beach temporarily banned nonresidents from most free parking.

A Mount Pleasant interest group advocating beach access quickly sprang up, thousands strong, and sued Isle of Palms. The state Department of Transportation swatted down Isle of Palms’ plan to eliminate hundreds of parking spots along state-owned Palm Boulevard, and state Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Bonneau, has prefiled legislation to clarify that beach parking on state roads is free unless the state says otherwise.

“I believe it will pass and pass rather quickly,” Grooms said. “Our state beaches are an absolute treasure and we don’t need some high-handed council members walling off our beaches from the rest of the state.”

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