Simple Rules for Visting the Lowcountry
July 2019 Issue
by Suzanne Eisinger
Summer is upon us, the time when visitors from around the world see for themselves the beauty and vibrance of the Lowcountry, Hilton Head and the surrounding sea islands.
For the next few months, roads will become more crowded and lines a bit longer, but visitors, we are glad to have you here. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that most of us were visitors ourselves. Still, having lived here for a while, we locals would like to offer some advice on how to make your visit a safe and happy one. Not only will it ensure that you keep coming back for many years to come, but that it is just as beautiful as the last time you came.
All it takes is remembering a few simple rules we learned as 5 year-olds.
In All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, (1986), Robert Fulghum recalls the commonsense rules we were taught as young children—rules that, as it turns out, are just as important to us in our adult lives. And while not a complete list, here are a few worth mentioning as you begin your stay.
“Watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together”
When first developing Sea Pines Resort in the 1950s, Charles Fraser had the foresight to include bike pathways. Not only did it attract families to the Island, but it helped employees get to worksites which didn’t yet have roads. Fast forward six decades and Fraser’s vision has blossomed into a Gold-rated Bike Friendly Community (BFC), one of only 34 awarded by the League of American Bicyclists in the United States.
Frank Babel, known by locals as the “bike guy,” is a longtime bicycling advocate and one of the key players in applying for BFC distinction. He is also a founding member of the Bicycle Advisory Committee, whose mission is ‘to help make Hilton Head Island safe and more bike friendly for everyone.’
When it comes to safety, however, “there’s no such thing as a magic bullet,” Babel says. Working on improving pathways and signage helps, “but the reality is that people come from different places with different rules.”
And this is important: In South Carolina, cars have the right of way. They don’t have to stop for pedestrians or bicyclists, unless they are in the crosswalk. However, because of differing state laws, this can cause confusion. Drivers may stop abruptly at the sight of a pedestrian waiting to cross traffic, causing accidents behind them. In multi-lane traffic, this can be especially dangerous if one lane stops but the second lane doesn’t.
No matter how we get around—by car, bicycle or on foot—we share the roads with a complicated mix of out-of-town drivers, distracted drivers, drivers in a hurry and the ever-present possibility that alcohol might be in play. So, how can we stay safe? Pay attention. Just remember back to when you first learned how to cross the street, the care you took in looking both ways before leaving the intersection. It still works. And if you can’t remember, try these tips:
1) Slow down.
2) Don’t roll through stop signs.
3) Look both directions twice before entering traffic.
4) At intersections, make eye contact with waiting bicyclists
and pedestrians to confirm who is going first.
5) Be aware of your surroundings and minimize distractions
(put down that smart phone).
6) When going through traffic circles, stay in your lane and drive slowly. If you
miss your turn, just continue driving until you reach the desired exit again.
“Clean Up Your Own Mess”
Few come to the Lowcountry without making at least one trip to our incredible beaches. When you do, check out the Town of Hilton Head’s website (www.hiltonheadislandsc.gov) which is chock-full of guidelines and safety tips.
Besides the standard rules—no alcohol, no glass containers, no fires, etc.—remember animals are not allowed between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. from Memorial to Labor Day. However, the big one to remember is clean up your own mess. From litter to beach equipment to what your dog left behind, clean it all up before you leave. Your fellow beach-goers and the sea turtles (see below) will thank you.
“Put Things Back Where You Found Them”
Loggerhead turtles are the state reptile for South Carolina and the most common nesting sea turtle on our shores. They are also classified as a threatened species.
Each summer, nesting mothers emerge from the ocean and search for a quiet, dark spot on the beach to lay their eggs. Babies typically hatch 60 days later and must rely on moonlight to guide them back to the sea. They are small, weak and very vulnerable, so any obstacles along the way (beach toys and tents, large holes in the sand, confusing bright lights) can be fatal.
Every morning during nesting season, local marine biologist Amber Kuehn helps patrol island beaches for newly-made nests. In her 20+ years of turtle tracking, Amber has noticed two things: the number of nests is increasing, but so are the number of visitors to Hilton Head’s beaches. As these two populations increasingly cross paths, mothers are more likely to abandon their search for a nesting spot. To give these turtles a chance, just put things back how you found them:
1) Turn oceanfront lights out between 10 p.m and 6 a.m.
2) Fill up your holes and flatten your sandcastles.
3) Clean up litter.
4) Never leave beach equipment on the beach overnight.
5) Red flashlights only (or red light feature on cell phones).
6) Leave nests undisturbed.
It’s one of those sights that mesmerize visitors all over the Lowcountry—the menacing, prehistoric figure of an alligator floating in, or basking on the banks of a nearby pond. And while one’s first impulse is to get a closer look, remember to keep a safe distance and remain watchful. Alligators may seem slow and clumsy, but they can move with startling speed and may lurk beneath the surface of the water. Always be mindful of the following South Carolina DNR guidelines:
1) Don’t feed alligators—or other animals that inhabit the
same waters, such as ducks and turtles.
2) Keep your distance (at least 60 feet).
3) Don’t harass or corner alligators.
4) Don’t disturb nests or small alligators.
5) Keep pets and small children away from the water’s edge
where alligators might live.
6) Be cautious when fishing—alligators may be attracted
to injured fish or bait.
7) Assume alligators are in EVERY body of water—
lagoons, creeks, rivers, ponds, etc.
See? Nothing to it. By remembering our Kindergarten rules, visitors and residents alike can enjoy the beauty of coastal South Carolina and its wildlife for many years to come. Which leads us to our last rule:
It’s an amazing place, isn’t it? Don’t forget to sit back and just enjoy.