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FOHI Funded Projects

Over the years, FOHI has been involved with helping and assisting Hunting Island State Park on projects that were available, but did not have fiscal SCPRT budget means. The opportunity for FOHI to step in has been one of our greatest benefits thanks to the continued support of our membership dollars and private donations. We are thrilled to have been able to provide HISP visitors with numerous improvements to enhance their park experience. If you are interested in volunteering on our Construction team, please visit Membership and select Construction Crew as your volunteer choice. We guarantee you will have fun! Here are a few of our many projects completed:

Where do your membership dollars go?

Well, a portion went to this beast — a Hydraulic Hopper Chipper which will snap up all those downed trees everyone sees throughout the 5,000 acre State Park, making the rangers very happy with its efficiency in time and load intake. We are proud to be able to execute funding to Hunting Island  in so many areas of need, and watch the benefit of our membership dollars in action 


To join our cause and keep Hunting Island the sacred space it is, join us

Watermen's Wave Lowcountry Boot Trail 

Art Installation at Hunting Island Nature Center and Pier

April, 2024

Step into the world of Watermen, also known as crabbers or fishermen, with Friends of Hunting Island State Park wave boots, a new art installation.


The Watermen’s Wave Lowcountry Boot Trail is the brain child of Beaufort Area Hospitality Group and was launched in conjunction with the Beaufort Oyster Festival January, 2024. This art installation serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving and celebrating local culture. It is a testament to the resilience and spirit of the watermen in the Lowcountry region, who continue to carry on their traditions despite the ever-changing times.


The concept behind this art installation is to celebrate the history and culture of the watermen in the Lowcountry region. Watermen, also known as crabbers or fishermen, have played a crucial role in shaping the coastal communities of South Carolina for generations. Their livelihoods revolve around harvesting seafood from the surrounding waters and their unique way of life has been passed down through families for centuries. 


Friends of Hunting Island has participated in this project and are now proud to introduce our rendition of the boots for Hunting Island through the work of Aki Kate, curator of our beautiful Visitor Center murals. Aki has brought  his brush and interpretive vision to this art form paying homage to local culture and its deep connection with the island's natural environment. Step into them and experience the spirit of Hunting Island for yourself and your family photo op!


Boots are now showcased on the Pier, outside the Nature Center. 

The Watermen's Wave Lowcountry Boot Trail, will launch throughout Beaufort County Spring, 2024.

FOHI adds a Buffalo Turbine Cyclone blower to help with storm cleanup efforts

Friends of Hunting Island State Park has been busy with recent projects aimed at improving the park and protecting the environment. One of the exciting new additions is a Buffalo Turbine Cyclone blower donated by the membership donors, which will help the park team in their storm cleanup efforts. To learn more about the recent projects and how you can support Friends of Hunting Island State Park, keep reading.

2024 Keystone Project

The Restoration of the 1875 Fresnel Lens and Exhibit 

housing to be built on Lighthouse Complex


Background and Need

The South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism (PRT) Department has secured funding for an extensive restoration of the Hunting Island Lighthouse on Hunting Island State Park. This iconic structure is the centerpiece of the Hunting Island State Park, the most visited park in the South Carolina State Park System.

Currently displayed in the base of the lighthouse is a classic Fresnel Lens of the largest 1st Order size. (Photo attached) The lens is about 12 feet high and 6 feet in diameter. The lens was received by the State of South Carolina from the U. S. Coast Guard in 1962 and has been on display in the lighthouse since. Although missing some parts over the years, it continues to be a centerpiece of the lighthouse experience for visitors to the park.

The lens was originally installed in the Charleston Lighthouse on Morris Island at the entrance to Charleston Harbor. In 1938, the lens was removed and stored at the Bureau of Lighthouses Lighthouse Depot in Charleston. The lighthouse was downgraded due to the erosion of Morris Island so the island could no longer support a lighthouse keeper staff. The lighthouse was now automated with a smaller light requiring no keeper staff. When the U. S. Coast Guard assumed responsibility for all U. S. lighthouses in 1939, the lens passed to the Coast Guard along with the Charleston Depot. In 1962, the State of South Carolina acquired the lens from the U. S. Coast Guard and placed it on display in the base of the Hunting Island Lighthouse.


Host Building for Fresnel Lens 

Develop a plan for the construction of a small additional building on the Hunting Island Light Station to house the lens itself, possibly additional related artifacts and displays, and illustrations and text. This building will have additional space for this expanded lens exhibit and will also be ADA accessible, which the base of the lighthouse is not. The building will also be capable of some limited climate control also which the base of the lighthouse is not. This will help to preserve the lens according to recommendations from the consulted lens expert.

This “new” building will not, in fact, be new to the light station as the recent discovery of a photograph of the light station c.1894 clearly shows that just such a small building existed on the light station (Original 1894 photograph attached). Since the light station of today is somewhat smaller than in 1894, the new building will have to be in a different location on the Lighthouse Complex. The design of this building will begin immediately as this will be done by Friends of Hunting Island (FOHI) volunteers from the Construction and Lighthouse Committees. 

Once a basic design and a possible location are determined, an approval process will be necessary from South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism (SCPRT) as well as the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) as the Hunting Island Light Station is on the National Register of Historic Sites. 

With the approvals obtained and the ATax grant secured, the construction of the small lens exhibit building can begin, likely in early 2024. (sketch of proposed building and location on complex attached) This will allow at least a year to complete this first element. When feasible and appropriate, work will be done by FOHI volunteers


Fabrication of new Frame and Base

A lens of the 1st Order size included, in addition to the bronze frame that directly supports the glass elements, an iron support frame which supported the several bronze frame parts. Due to the proximity of the salt ocean environment and the bi-metallic corrosion of the iron and bronze in contact, constant maintenance of the support frame is needed to prevent its rusting (2022 Photo of lens, frame and base is attached). Of course, post 1962, this was not done, so the support frame is now completely rusted away and useless. In the early 2000’s the State Park was required to add a temporary timber support structure to the lens to prevent its collapse. When the lens is disassembled in October 2023, the remains of the original iron support frame will likely disintegrate so a new support frame will be needed when the lens components are reassembled later when the building discussed in Element 1 above has been completed. 

It is the design and fabrication of this new support frame that is the subject of this element. The design will be the task of a specialist in the design of lens structures. He may need access to the lens prior to its disassembly in October. This will be arranged. The design will specify modern materials (for example marine grade stainless steel) that will greatly reduce or eliminate the need for maintenance to maintain it. Of course, the ugly timber support structure that greatly detracts from the lens’ inherent beauty will be eliminated. 

With a design completed, the Friends of Hunting Island will look to engage a local steel fabrication firm to construct the frame. The advantage of this is that the proximity of the work will allow the Friends of Hunting Island to observe the work and quickly answer questions that may arise. It also gives the opportunity for community involvement in the progress of the work at the Hunting Island Light House. 

With a new support frame and a new exhibit building to put the lens in, the reassembly of the lens can proceed. How this final phase of the Hunting Island lens project will take place will be a subject of future discussions between South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism and the Friends of Hunting Island. 

Nature Center, Interpretive Classroom and Exhibit Space 2023



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 29, 2023

Renovated Nature Center now open at Hunting Island State Park
The facility will welcome an estimated one million visitors annually


Beaufort, S.C. – On Tuesday, September 26, local and state leaders cut the ribbon on the renovated Nature Center at Hunting Island State Park. The project was spearheaded by the Friends of Hunting Island (FOHI) and supported through their membership dollars, donations, and local Accommodations Taxes. 


Hunting Island State Park is one of the most popular parks in South Carolina, home to five miles of beaches, thousands of acres of marsh and maritime forest, a saltwater lagoon, and a variety of land and marine wildlife. The Nature Center is located at the entrance to the park’s fishing pier on the southern tip of the island and it offers fascinating educational opportunities for all ages. The renovated center features local Gullah artwork, animal exhibits housing alligators, turtles, and snakes, and a variety of artifacts and displays interpreting the area’s history, natural environment, and wildlife. Interpretative rangers will be available at the Nature Center for education and hands-on experiences that will exceed the expectations of visitors, especially children.


The project was born out of a meeting with previous park manager Brandon Goff, FOHI President, Linda Miller, and Randal Brown, FOHI Construction Director in September 2022. From hand-sketched plans to six months of planning and hard work, their shared vision became a reality. 


FOHI provided $75,000 for the project and Beaufort City Council supported the project through a $30,000 state Accommodations Tax grant. Work began in March 2023 under the direction of Brown. Park staff and volunteers completed the majority of the labor to bring the project to life. Work from local artists, Luana Graves Sellars, Founder of Lowcountry Gullah, photographer Wade Spees, and fine artist Sonja Griffin Evans adorn the walls, grounding the center with an inspiring sense of place. Many of the facility’s educational components focus on the unique qualities of the ever-changing barrier island.


Speakers at the ribbon-cutting event included Hunting Island State Park Manager, Zabo McCants; Ramsey Grove Park Manager, Brandon Goff; South Carolina State Parks Director, Paul McCormack; FOHI President, Linda Miller; and Representative Shannon Erickson. Also in attendance were partners from Lowcountry Gullah, Visit Beaufort, Beaufort Area Hospitality Association, Eat, Stay, Play Beaufort, Business Southern Style and students from Hobbit Hill Preschool and Learning Center.

Business | Southern Style - Hunting Island Nature Center Ribbon Cutting Ceremony - October, 2023


Fresnal Lens, Current condition–August, 2023


Receiving the Fresnel Lens at Hunting Island – circa. 1960 Photo –SCPRT


Hunting Island Lighthouse Station c. 1894

Heritage Library, Hilton Head Island


Dan Spinella, Frame Restorationist 10/24/2023

Hunting Island WEBCAM

Sponsored by Friends of Hunting Island

February 2023

Caretta Shed 
November 2022


In an effort to protect our fearless FOHI four wheeler, our Construction Director meticulously selected the proper shelter for her. Randal and his crew worked diligently to put this together for the Sea Turtle Conservation Program. After the most successful loggerhead nesting season ever - Caretta most definitely deserves a rest in her new digs!

Sand Fence Post Project
November 2022

Background: Sand fences at Hunting Island have been placed along about 2 miles of the sand dunes. They play an important role by slowing down airborne sand, dropping the sand at the fence and thereby building up and maintaining the dunes.

The problem: In a short period of time the sand fence posts started breaking off at ground level, and when a single post breaks, it places extra load on the adjacent posts which eventually leads to sections of the sand fence lying flat on the dunes.

The solution: Detach the broken posts from the fencing, replace them with new pressure treated posts and reattach the fencing to the new posts. 

The process

  1. Use an angle grinder to cut the staples, releasing the old broken posts. Without power, a strong battery powered tool was used.

  2. Remove the old broken post, dig a hole about 2 feet deep and insert a new post and make sure of a tight fit.

  3. Reattach the fencing to the post using CatsClaw fasteners - no staples, no hammering, just a screw gun. This enables easy removal or repositioning of the fencing if needed in the future. 

Status as of November 2022 – over 250 fence posts have been replaced, with materials and equipment cost of just over $3000 and close to 100 volunteer hours. The project will likely continue through 2023.   

Campsite "Host Hut" 
November 2022

In an effort to facilitate the check in process for the Campers who visit Hunting Island State Park, it was determined by management that another building was needed to create a smoother flow of traffic. FOHI was very happy to accommodate this request and our Construction Director set out to find the right building to meet their needs. 


With a few choice modifications made by the team, the "Host Hut" was ready to receive visitors in November, 2022!

Rustic Tent Sites 🌾
October 2021

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Virtual Lighthouse 🌾
Visitor Center

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Playground 🌾

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Accessibility 🌾

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