The Visitor Center at Hunting Island State Park
In 2017, the Hunting Island State Park (HISP) manager asked Friends of Hunting Island (FOHI) to renovate the Visitor Center. A team of volunteers was formed to determine the best approach, and meetings were held with park staff, designers, and FOHI members. The team visited various parks and museums with similar educational goals.
In 2018, FOHI partnered with SCPRT (South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism), the SC Department of Transportation (DOT), and several granting agencies, including Beaufort County Accommodations Tax, to fund the renovations. Walls were repaired and re-sheet-rocked; new electrical and lighting fixtures were installed; and new hardwood flooring was laid.
Aki Kato, a Beaufort muralist known for his life-like paintings, covered the walls with murals depicting the various ecosystems and wildlife of Hunting Island: salt marsh, maritime forest, dunes, beach, and ocean. Visitors will enjoy the treasure hunt to spot all the different creatures.
Classically-trained, Hilton Head sculptor, Kelly Richard, was commissioned to create six life-like sculptures commonly seen on Hunting Island—a wood stork, a bald eagle, an osprey, a pelican, a laughing gull, and the less commonly seen adult loggerhead turtle.
Among the displays, built by Merlin Redfern, former Construction Director for FOHI, and Jack Blake, FOHI member, are the new lighthouse display in the lobby, the model of the Civilian Conservation Corps-built swing bridge, and the turtle display with dioramas of threats to sea turtles and stages of sea turtle life.
Three video monitors were added to the room. One is for longer films; a second shows the five short films about aspects of Hunting Island commissioned of Joanne Hock and Heidi Dove, award-winning filmmakers from Charlotte, NC; and a third that shows a continuous video of a morphing map of Hunting Island as it was reshaped over time.
The Virtual Lighthouse Addition
The Virtual Lighthouse is being planned right now. Because many people cannot climb the lighthouse to see the magnificent views it offers and children under 44” tall are not allowed to climb it, Malia Cooler, a long-time park staff member, suggested that a virtual lighthouse experience would be much welcomed by those visitors.
Therefore, the team decided to build a reproduction of the top of the lighthouse where visitors will be able to virtually climb the stairs to see the view from the top. In addition, some of the space will be used for SCPRT-sponsored Lighthouse Virtual Reality with headsets. SM-7 Design of Beaufort is designing the room, and Dave Schmitt has been hired to build it.
The Visitor Center is on the way to the beach. Stop and enjoy! Photo courtesy of Aki Kato
Left to right: Carol Corbin, Kelly Richard,
Chris Crosley, Aki Kato, JW Weatherford
The artists who put it all together!