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Submissions are welcome, y'all. FY Charleston!
I’m not quite sure where to start with this post, so I’m going to start where I think I should…it’s kind of like eating an oversized sandwich.
First off, I think that the cruise ships should stay where they are. As in just coming into port on the weekends. It’s a nice surplus to Charleston’s economy which was nonexistant over 50 years ago. It balances out the slow days in the winter for the market, I’m sure. Just the same with college students not being in a college town for restaurants. It’s like big Saturday football game days.
However, a cruise ship coming in everyday at the same time every week is just the beginning of chaos. Mayor Joe Riley (who I have the UTMOST respect for) loves the idea of the taxes generated and the fact the cruise ship port would be expanded into a a whole renovated area. Most visitors would hit the market, waterfront, and the historic homes that are located right near by. It might also attract and prompt more tourists throughout the year for personal vacations. I sat down with a wonderful lady who works a scarf stand at the market one day, and she was Mayor Riley’s #1 fan and supporter of the larger cruise ship port. The areas tourists would hit the hardest are no doubt amazing places, but it really impacts the area and how flow works downtown.
From a preservation standpoint, the idea of adding a larger terminal has added Charleston to the Top 11 Most Endangered Preservation List in the US. This is not only the same beating on the homes and historic areas of Charleston EVERY DAY, but it is in mass quantities. Sure, historic homes are visited throughout the day. Let’s take the Calhoun Mansion on Meeting Street for example. They have tours go out every so many minutes throughout the day, but these groups are of different size. The house will take a different sized crowd throughout the day, versus having a FULL tour for the hours the cruise ship is in port, for that many hours throughout the day. It’s all about balance. Over years, (for example) stairs from tourists visiting historic homes have caused indentations, damage to railings, etc. But can you imagine almost doubling the number of visitors to not just this home, but for most of the historic area?
Not to ignore the green issue with the ships: The Charleston harbor is very dirty as is from just cargo ships. Underwater Archaeologists who explore the harbor can’t even see their own hands in front of them. They have to feel around for hours on end just to find shipwrecks. Opening the harbor to even bigger ships means that more of the harbor would be dredged, causing many millions of dollars of tax money to have to be used for that issue. In addition, dredging causes many wildlife habitats in the harbor to be destroyed.
If you walk around downtown SoB, you’ll be able to see how most of the historic homes that are residences feel about the issue. I’d say about 3/4 are not huge fans.
This is just my opinion…sorry for the long post. It had to be said.
I felt like I had to repost this after reading it and thinking a lot about it. As someone who knows a lot of people who work in the downtown shops on King Street (or have worked in them in the past), I know and appreciate how much business the cruise ships bring in to the city’s economy. And I’ve always thought that Charleston residents who complain about too much traffic in tourist season, or too many tourists wandering around and crowding up the beaches, were a bit misguided, since tourism is what drives the city’s economy, and is likely one of the major reasons Charleston hasn’t felt the economic crisis to such a great degree as other parts of the country have. And I still think that’s true to some extent.
However, Sydney’s essay has made me remember something essential that is perhaps more important than such practical concerns. Economic benefits are perhaps not worth it if they end up destroying or damaging the things that make Charleston what it is, the things that give it the character and history and context for which so many people have come to love it. On one level, if these things are damaged too much, we end up having sawn off the branch we were sitting on, and the economic benefits don’t matter. But even apart from that, I think of all the things that the world has lost throughout history, and the fact that what we have now is such a minute fraction of what we once had, and it makes me sad that our remaining heritage is in danger. To an extent, and perhaps to a very large extent, what we have is our responsibility to protect, regardless of the cost. And I don’t think it will even be a cost, in the long term, though it may be in the short.
All this only addresses the historical / cultural aspect of the issue. As Sydney brought up, there are also environmental issues at stake as well, that I don’t feel qualified or educated enough to comment on. But to any who need convincing on this issue (I do not), think of this in the same light as the cultural issues: it’s a heritage that we’ve spent too much of in the past, and it’s time for us to wake up and protect what little we have left.
Sorry, I didn’t mean to rant on about this. Now back to your scheduled posting of pretty Charleston pictures.