The organization kicked off the celebration year with an oyster roast in Port Royal on March 24th and is hosting an Art Show Beginning May 3rd.
Attending the Oyster Roast was one of Hunting Island’s biggest fans—local artist, Robert Hild, AWS. So inspired was Hild by the rugged beauty of Hunting Island, that he began painting a series of watercolors to donate to Friends of Hunting Island to help in the recovery work after the hurricanes. His final count will be 30 framed paintings that concentrate on the “Boneyard” but include lighthouse paintings and other scenes, many of which were swept away in the storms.
Hild spoke last week at Greendrinks, held at Q on Bay, to a standing-room- only crowd about his inspiration for the very generous donation he has made to Hunting Island. Also speaking were J.W. Weatherford, Hunting Island State Park Manager, and Denise Parsick, President of Friends of Hunting Island.
Hild’s show, titled “Nature’s Shifting Scenes @ Hunting Island (2013-2016)” will go on sale beginning April 1 at friendsofhuntingisland.org. The paintings will be on display at the USCB Center for the Arts from May 3-31, and purchases can be made there as well. An opening reception will be held on May 3 at 5:30. Also throughout the year are a large number of classes and workshops, the annual Sand Sculpting contest and a few more highlights that are currently in the planning stages.
Through the years there have been numerous sand-fencing installations; dune restorations and plantings; beach sweeps and trash collection; oyster reef restorations and water monitoring; trail improvements; lighthouse, Nature Center, and Visitor Center facilities improvements; park promotions, signage, and printing; and beach renourishment lobbying, providing thousands of volunteer hours to Hunting Island State Park. And that doesn’t even count the hundreds or thousands of volunteers working every day, spring and summer, in the Sea Turtle Conservation Project to protect and monitor sea turtles at Hunting Island.
Over the years, volunteers from Friends of Hunting Island have built fire pits and trash bins, installed Dogi-Pot stations with bags for pick up, given nature talks, worked as docents at the lighthouse, marked and cleared trails, constructed playgrounds, renovated historic buildings, planted gardens, provided ADA-accessible equipment, and more.
After Hurricane Matthew, Friends of Hunting Island was instrumental in taking the lead to assist with repairs to the State Park calling on volunteers and the community-at-large and coordinating clean-up efforts and the repainting of the new fencing around the historic lighthouse, just to name a few things.
Friends of Hunting Island 25-Year Overview
1993—Friends of Hunting Island founded to support the Hunting Island State Park mission
1997—work begins to restore the lighthouse compound
1998—charter and by-laws approved
2001—website developed by Beaufort High multi-media class; water garden project funded;
playground at campground funded and completed in 2004
2003—FOHI member t-shirts and badges used for identification; mountain bike trail completed;
2005—Hunting Island license plate initiated; benches for trails and marsh boardwalk built;
upgraded Nature Center equipment
2006—Americans with Disabilities Act equipment purchased; construction begins on Nature
Center expansion and opens in 2007; Visitor Center pond fountain installed
2007—campground ADA restroom completed; Nature Center renovations completed
2008—installed monofilament recycling containers; purchased ADA all-terrain wheelchairs;
built ADA restroom at South Beach; began Discover Carolina educational programs; installed
trailhead markers; first Sand Sculpture Contest
2009—first Pelican Plunge held; painted exterior of the lighthouse; increased park nature
programs; 23 docents conducted 164 talks plus 25 lighthouse talks to 800 school children in
Sept-Oct; held first 5K walk/run
2010—HISP becomes part of the SC Audubon Important Bird Area (IBA); purchased four touch
screens and built cabinet bases for Nature Center; initiated Loggerhead Sea Turtle DNA study;
purchased bike racks, 4 shower towers, 8 changing stations
2011—36 schools participate in Discover Carolina program
2012—Women’s Coastal Skills Training adopted by FOHI; held first “World Ocean Day” event;
installed osprey nesting platform atop utility pole
2013—Lighthouse play produced; “Hunting Island Comes to Town” exhibit at Beaufort City Hall
History Museum; all-terrain vehicle purchased for turtle program and HISP use
2016—Hurricane Matthew shuts down the park for nine months
2017—FOHI members given 2018 stickers free of charge due to long closure of the park;
purchased TV for the Nature Center; worked on Nature Center water park; new lighthouse
fence installed and painted; Hurricane Irma closes park for two months
2018—FOHI’s 25th anniversary begins with a record-cold Pelican Plunge
The organization also received the coveted President’s Award for 2015 from the National Association of State Park Directors for exemplary support of a state park.
The Story of Friends of Hunting Island
Warren and Mary Dickson, new residents of Dataw Island in 1993, met Ray Stevens, the Hunting Island State Park manager, while they were walking on the beach. Ray told them that he wanted to start a volunteer organization to protect Loggerhead Sea Turtles on Hunting Island. Although the Dicksons knew nothing about turtles, they took the job, and Friends of Hunting Island was born.
From a beginning of two people, the Dicksons encouraged their neighbors and friends from Dataw Island to join and help locate and protect turtle nests during the spring and summer nesting season. Soon more volunteers joined, and now volunteers work year-round to keep the beaches clean, the fences painted, the trails cleared, and the visitors welcomed.
The Dicksons’ early group of volunteers acted as ambassadors for the park and began building a larger non- profit organization.
By 2018, 25 years later, the organization has over 1400 members and is one of the largest volunteer organizations in Beaufort County. As the state’s most popular park, over a million visitors come to Hunting Island every year, and Friends of Hunting Island works hand-in- hand with the park staff to provide the best possible services on the only undeveloped barrier island in South Carolina accessible by car.
Congrats to Friends of Hunting Island for its first 25 years. We’re glad they’re here, acting as stewards of nature to our beloved park.