Hunting Island to reopen Memorial Day weekend with significant changes

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Hunting Island State Park will reopen Friday, May 26th. The park has been unable to reopen since Hurricane Matthew because of the extensive damage. (Credit: Josie Gregory)

It has been eight months since Hurricane Matthew, and Hunting Island State Park is still not open. However, the park is set to reopen Friday, May 26, just in time for Memorial Day weekend.

This week, crews are still clearing trees and rebuilding damaged structures, working around the clock to reopen.

South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism estimates the storm cost the park $5 million in repairs and it lost more than $2 million in revenue.

"The last eight months, we've come from a devastating hit from Hurricane Matthew to being really close to reopening this great treasure of South Carolina," said Phil Gaines, the state parks director.

Next weekend's visitors will see all of the park's improvements from the new bathrooms to the newly renovated park shop and picnic areas.

The park's north and south beach areas will be open, but the campsites will remain closed. Park officials said the damage is still too extensive for visitors. They warn people to stay out of any restricted areas.

A couple of the most significant changes visitors will see is the lack of parking and the expansive ocean views.

"The beach that eroded and some of the sand that washed in is kind of surrounding those palmetto trees, and it has a real tropical feel to it now," Gaines said.

The storm's nine foot storm surge also buried several parking lots, costing the park about 250 spaces.

"We'll be at capacity. So, come early, or come late," he warns. Gaines also encourages people to carpool as much as possible and visit during the week.

The park is also looking into a partnership with Palmetto Breeze buses to start a shuttle service in June.

The park's admission will stay the same. It will be $5 for adults, $3 per child aged 6 to 15 years old, free for children under 5 years old, and $3.25 for South Carolina senior citizens 65 and older.

Park officials anticipate reopening the campsite areas in mid-June.

For more information about Hunting Island State Park, click here.