By Linda Lovvorn Tucker
Breathtaking! It is the word that comes to mind as one drives up the Connector Bridge and beholds the salt marsh, the Intracoastal Waterway, the beach and ocean surrounding the Isle of Palms, South Carolina.
And the sensation is not just the first time one sees it, but also every time in every season! The Isle of Palms, an Atlantic barrier island, has prided itself on being a family beach that is the perfect blend of approximately 5,000 fulltime residents and 20,000 to 50,000 investment owners and visitors who make it their home and destination. In 2002, the City was the first in the State of South Carolina to achieve the Blue Wave Designation from the Clean Beaches Council who recognizes environmentally well-managed beaches. The city has successfully kept this designation every year since.
The entire 7-mile long and 1 mile wide island is an incorporated municipality. Having incorporated in 1953, the City recently celebrated its 50th Anniversary in a weekend long celebration that is still being talked about by those who attended. Attorney J.C. Long developed the island after World War II as an affordable place where service people could buy homes and raise a family. Some of those original families and their descendents are still on the island today.
The municipality offers residents and visitors a full range of city services to include police, fire, public works, recreation, building, planning, zoning, judicial and general government. Further, the City owns and operates a full service 5-acre marina site with launch services, dockage and fuel. As well, the City leases facilities to a popular restaurant, a mini mart, a kayak business, a parasail and a wave runner business at the City owned site. The marina is a popular place to charter both offshore and inshore fishing trips as well as eco tours of nearby uninhabited islands. The City offers approximately six miles of beach access for residents and visitors throughout the island, provides public parking to accommodate visitors and maintains a beachfront restroom and boardwalk for the convenience of the beachgoer.
Recreational opportunities abound. One can ride through the many bike paths throughout the island, enjoy the beautiful, wide, sandy beaches or if other recreational activities are your pleasure, through the City's recreation department, organized sports programs exist such as soccer, baseball, softball, football and basketball. The City also offers Tiny Tots and Mommy and Me for the younger children on the island. In addition to playgrounds and ball fields, visitors and residents may enjoy tennis, shuffleboard and skateboarding. The City is also home to an oceanfront County park at the center of the island. This facility has lifeguards, dressing rooms and refreshments.
The Wild Dunes resort occupies 1,500 acres on the northern end of the island and offers residents and visitors two 18 hole Tom Fazio golf courses, 17 har tru tennis courts, and numerous pools. The premier facility is the four star Boardwalk Inn and Grand Pavilion which feature three pools and a pavilion overlooking the beach and Atlantic Ocean. The site is a favorite for both music and dancing. The resort is among the top ten nationally ranked tennis resorts. Wild Dunes has many private residences as well as condominiums often rented on the vacation rental market.
While the Isle of Palms is a fabulous place to play, the overall quality of life is equally outstanding. Shopping is convenient with a grocery store and two shopping centers. These mostly contain gift shops, real estate rental businesses and restaurants. Commuting is simple. The adjacent community of Mount Pleasant, just over the Isle of Palms Connector Bridge, has a full range of shopping opportunities. Mount Pleasant is also home to a hospital and numerous banking facilities. Just across historic breach inlet, the adjacent island of Sullivan's Island offers the public school for both islands' children. The school is situated on 18 acres of beachfront property and is famous for its academic superiority. The Isle of Palms has three churches--the Lutheran Church, the First United Methodist Church and the Baptist Church. Some residents and visitors attend church on neighboring Sullivan's Island where Catholic, Presbyterian and Episcopalian churches are located. Others may attend any of the approximately 160 located in downtown Charleston, SC, the "Holy City," only 13 miles away.
The Isle of Palms is sensitive to the ecology of the island recognizing that it is a fragile eco system of which both residents and visitors must strive to be good stewards. The City circulates a publication for visitors called The Pelican Guide, which is an educational tool to help visitors preserve what makes the island so special. The Turtle Team vigilantly monitors the success of the loggerhead turtle nests and hatchlings, The Front Beach Enhancement committee completed a million dollar revitalization of the central section of the island most often visited by the day beach tourist.
Novels and poetry have been written about the Isle of Palms. Those who live here and those who visit here seem changed forever because of the island and its people. Some arrive and never leave. Others must return year after year to get their dose of Isle of Palms to sustain them.
2010 Census Data
Owner-Occupied Units: 1,481 (35%)
% of Housing Built Since 1990: 44%
Mean Household Income: $158,254
Median Household Income: $109,683
Per Captia Income: $68,759
% of Adults with College Degree: 63% (1,849/2,907)
People 0-18 Years Old: 704 (17%)
People 18-65 Years Old: 2,494 (60%)
People 65+ Years Old: 935 (23%)