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Counties collaborate on Edisto River project

Dorchester County is leading the way in recreationally transforming one of the Lowcountry’s most popular waterways.

From a Journal Scene article: The Edisto River Recreational Management Plan is underway with a goal to be completed by the end of the year, according to county Parks & Recreation Director Eric Davis.

“In summer of last year, I saw an opportunity to bring Dorchester County into the fold to better utilize this amazing recreational resource,” he said.

The purpose of the initiative? Improve outdoor activity along the Edisto, the longest blackwater river in the country, Davis revealed.

To do that, he and Colleton County officials – mainly ones with the Edisto River Canoe and Kayak Commission – are working to identify and improve any existing issues negatively affecting added and improved recreation on the river. It’s all about providing “a better product” for residents and tourists, Davis said.

That means looking at ways to remove and prevent litter, identify and improve user conflicts, public safety and poorly maintained infrastructure.

Davis said the river also lacks general information on access points and other data individuals unfamiliar with the river should know. One solution to the litter issue included a river cleanup, which occurred in May.

“Whether you’re fishing for redbreast, searching for fossils, floating in a tube, or paddling a kayak, we want to improve your experience on the Edisto River,” Davis said in a recent op-ed published in a May edition of the Journal Scene.

The county is most interested in the stretch of the Edisto from Green Pond Landing to Lowndes Landing.

Between the two counties invested in the project, Dorchester is leading the way since, according to county officials, its past involvement with Edisto River recreation has been nonexistent.

“It is really morphing into a collaborative, multi-partner effort that we had hoped for in the beginning,” Davis said of the counties’ partnership.

Dorchester County has also hired USC graduate student Kim Noonan to serve as an intern and project leader. Parks & Recreation officials have also sought professional input from the U.S. National Park Service’s Recreation, Trails and Conservation Assistance program.

Project officals have already met with stakeholders, who in addition to representatives from both counties and the river’s canoe and kayak commission include South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, sheriff’s offices in both counties, S.C. State Parks, Friends of the Edisto and riverfront property owners, among others, Davis said.

However public input for the initiative is also needed, and a public forum will take place 6 p.m. Tuesday at Riverfront Hall at Givhans Ferry State Park. Residents are invited to attend and weigh-in on the project. Attendants will receive project updates and a chance to offer feedback.

For those who can’t attend, an online survey is also available.

In addition to the Edisto River, the county is currently developing additional recreational opportunities along the Ashley River, hoping to incorporate the natural waterway into the future park property.

With the help of nonprofit organization American Rivers, the waterway now has a blue trail paddling map, available through Parks and Recreation. The map includes access points, river mileage and pinpoints historical and natural features located from near Schultz Lake to the Charleston Peninsula.

Davis said a similar waterproof paddling map is also in the works for the Edisto. He said the S.C. National Heritage Corridor awarded the county a $6,000 marketing grant to develop a “branding package” for the specific stretch of river. That package will include a map and website. It also requires a local match, which Davis announced Dorchester and Colleton counties will split — each contributing $3,000.

Additionally, within the next year, the Ashley River will offer two more canoe and kayak access sites — one each at Highway 17-A and Bacons Bridge Road, Davis said.

Anyone who cannot attend Tuesday’s meeting but would like to provide input can respond to this survey.

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