On a picturesque day at Folly Beach, the Charleston District held a series of events for the Folly Beach Shore Protection Project. Each event targeted a different group of people in order to provide detailed information about a project that will directly affect thousands of residents, visitors and tourists for the next decade.
The shore protection project is being done as part of a 50 year agreement with the City of Folly Beach to place sand back onto the beach approximately every eight years due to the change in sediment flow caused by the construction of jetties in Charleston Harbor in 1895. This project will consist of placing approximately 1.5 million cubic yards of sand onto 5.34 miles of beach.
In an effort to be as transparent as possible, the District began the day with a stakeholders reception, which included key partners from various projects and local, state and federal agencies that the District works with.
"Each of our stakeholders and partners is an important piece of our program, so we aim to keep them as involved as we can," said Lt. Col. John Litz, district commander. "We work closely with them in every project we do to implement innovative engineering solutions to improve and strengthen the nation."
District personnel had set up several stations in a conference room at a local hotel to showcase various aspects of the project. One of these was an interactive display of geographic information systems software that shows where exactly on the beach the construction crew is working at any given time. This is linked to a public website where the public can keep an eye on where the construction is. There was also a display discussing the engineering aspects of the project, with diagrams and a sample of the sand that has been pumped onto the beach. Another display featured how the District will keep an eye out for the endangered loggerhead turtle when nesting season begins and turtles make their way to the dunes to lay eggs.
These displays were a huge hit when students from the Charleston Charter School for Math and Science came to visit later in the morning. Inviting these students was part of the District’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) outreach for National Engineers Week. The students were also able to go out to the project site on the beach and see the construction firsthand.*
In the late afternoon, a public workshop was held, at the same location, for members of the public to come learn about the project and ask questions. District personnel entertained questions at their displays for more than two hours about all aspects of the project.
"It was great to see the public wanting to be so involved in the project," said Wes Wilson, interim project manager. "They were very interested in how the project was designed and how they can keep up with its progress. We were happy to talk with everyone and help them understand as much as possible since this has a direct effect on them."
Pre- and post-surveys were conducted at the public workshop in an attempt to gauge attendees’ knowledge of the project before and after looking at displays and talking with District personnel. The surveys each asked basic, yet major, questions about the project as well as questions in the pre-survey about how they had heard about the event and questions in the post-survey about their feelings toward how the meeting improved their knowledge of the project. Based on the results, it is clear that the public workshop achieved the goal of increasing the public’s knowledge on the project.
Respondents indicated that they felt their knowledge was improved and the correct answer response rate to the basic project questions went up. The survey results show that public workshops are good for increasing knowledge of projects and our transparency.
*You can read more about the visit from Charleston Charter in the upcoming special STEM edition of the Palmetto Castle