I moved to IOP in 1987, as a teenager with my family. I attended local schools, and in 1997 fulfilled my dream of opening Barrier Island EcoTours, located at the IOP Marina.
From riding my bike to the marina as a kid, and launching our boat, to owning a business there for the last 20 years, I have witnessed its progression first-hand. I’m confident in my understanding of how the marina and its businesses function.
When the city bought the marina in 1999, in addition to a market, the existing businesses were Tidal Wave, Coastal Expeditions, Barrier Island EcoTours, and several inshore fishing guides and offshore charter boats. The income received helped pay the bond, and in fact has contributed an average of $400,000 a year.
The businesses at the marina are run by mature, responsible owners, limited in growth because of limited dockage and parking. The new dock layout does not allow for any additional commercial boats, including Barrier Island EcoTours.
The activities offered by the businesses at the Isle of Palms Marina make the IOP a more desirable place to live and visit. Barrier Island EcoTours, for example, offers intensive, highly educational trips. Many schools statewide have integrated our program into their curriculum, returning year after year, providing their students with a hands-on experience that brings the classroom to life. The citizens of IOP should be proud to support a marina and a business educating so many of our children. So why sink $5.5 million into the marina for a renovation?
One of the main issues with the marina is the unsafe flow of the parking lot. Currently, vehicles pulling boats, supply trucks, busses, bikers, pedestrians, golf carts, and business patrons all utilize the same entrance. It is dangerous; an accident and potential lawsuit waiting to happen.
The docks are another safety hazard, and potential law suit to the city. The docks were in disrepair long before the city took over the marina. Now the disrepair is a documented fact, making for an easy law suit when someone gets injured. The band-aids that Brian Berrigan and the city have been applying are no longer effective.
Besides making the docks safer, the new dock layout better organizes the businesses. It also fixes the drop off at the end of the boat landing, extends both sides of the docks at the boat ramp to lessen congestion, and provides more dock slips for citizens to lease.
The city bought the marina complex for $4.25 million in 1999. Besides the beach, it is the island’s #1 asset. The original note will be paid off by the end of 2019, by tenant rents and tourist dollars. The city took a risk when purchasing the marina, yet repayment has not been a burden on the citizens of Isle of Palms.
There are laws that stipulate specifically what the accommodations tax may be used for. The tax must be spent on something that positively affects tourism. Why not put tourist dollars into beautifying, maintaining, and protecting our #1 asset?
Down the road, this investment will be viewed as one of the best things the City of Isle of Palms ever did for itself. The marina enhancement is only going to draw in more locals, creating a park-like atmosphere that everyone in the community can enjoy. The residents of Isle of Palms will forever have a marsh front park and boat access that is pedestrian, biker, and golf cart friendly, adding value to our properties and our community.
Owner, Barrier Island Eco Tours