SULLIVAN’S ISLAND, S.C. (WCBD)- It’s been an ongoing debate for decades; deciding how to manage a chunk of undeveloped maritime forest on Sullivan’s Island.

The town hired a consultant team, Biohabitats, to re-assess the land and build on the established development plan created in 2010. Ten years later, big changes could be coming to the island’s ecosystem.

Tonight, the town called a special meeting to hear what Biohabitats discovered in the last few months. They first explained the process of surveying the land as well as the multitude of individuals involved.

The process began back in 2019 with a series of charrettes; asking Sullivan’s Island residents what they think about the land. Many expressed that they believe the forest should remain untouched.

Biohabitats discovered that the Sullivan’s Island community “long for the good ole’ days,

“The land is a very important resource,” says Mayor Patrick O’Neil, “It’s been of a bone of contention in the community.”

The consultants still went through the process of assessing the land and rounded up a number of recommendations. They divided the land into 6 different management zones to help illustrate the different ecological needs of the environment.

These zones include the Maritime Forest, Backdune Ridge Trail, Managed Maritime Woodland, Maritime Dunes, and Maritime Interdunal Wetlands and Ponds.

Each zone has reccommendations that are unique to that area. For example, the Managed Maritime Woodland zone includes a lot of property close to homeowners. Therefore, management of the trees and shrubs would be up to the resident that owns the property.

The consultants explained a number of potential solutions to concerns from the community and their research. One of the most controversial has been mitigating storm surges on the island.

To try and combat storm surges, they recommend that the town builds up sand dunes to around 14-18 feet. Many of the dune heights sit around 8-12 feet currently.

A few residents asked questions regarding the plan as well as expressed concerns with future development. Mayor O’Neil says that he expected push back from the residents but hopes that council will reach a fair and just decision in the future.

Town officials plan to hold a multitude of meetings in the future to go over the plan, make edits, ask questions, and possibly establish some of their recommendations.