If you think sending a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers regarding the proposed giant cruise terminal isn’t important, please consider the events of May 12, 2015. This was the day the City Council was to vote on implementing the Tourism Management Committee’s recommendations for Charleston. At that meeting, Mayor Joseph P. Riley introduced SC State Ports Authority’s CEO Jim Newsome as the “world’s greatest port manager.” That set the stage for two bizarre occurrences.
The Tourism Management Committee, led by Kitty Robinson, President of Historic Charleston Foundation, was comprised of 27 individuals connected with or impacted by tourism. Members of the Committee included transportation companies, hoteliers, retailers, neighborhood representatives, preservationists, City staffers and more who worked diligently for well over a year to revise a tourism management plan that hadn’t been updated since 1998. On May 12th at City Hall their recommendations were handed out to every City Council member to vote on. Then the first bizarre incident occurred.
The last page of recommendations was missing. The report “…didn’t include recommendations from the city’s Planning Commission that city and SPA leaders look for an alternative site for the [cruise] terminal,” said the Post and Courier(1) How could that possibly happen? That page featured the Tourism Management Committee’s final recommendation to study of alternate cruise terminal locations. That same recommendation previously passed the Planning Commission by an 8-1 vote.(2) Remember, this recommendation was to “study alternate sites” for a terminal, it was not a motion to move the proposed terminal location. Surprisingly, the missing page featured the one recommendation both the mayor and the CEO of the SPA opposed.
The second bizarre incident occurred when the SPA’s CEO Jim Newsome spoke to City Council and enumerated several key points. One was bizarre. He said that cruise ships aren’t “tourism” that can be regulated by any Tourism Management Plan, that this is a “maritime” activity. It was consistent with his assertion back in 2012, “In my view, cruising is a maritime commerce business, not a tourism business. It’s more like an airport. Sure they may stay a night or two before or after the cruise, but for us it’s about the maritime commerce.”(3) Not only was this a contridiction of the early promise of the millions of dollars the cruise business would inject into the City’s economy, but it’s bizarre to think that those thousands of passengers disgorged onto the City’s streets are somehow not tourists but “maritime commerce.” Then what are all those people doing out on land, littering the place with paper cups, and causing gridlock on our streets?
It’s not just the soot, the noise, the traffic, or the “maritime commerce” people aimlessly wondering the streets eating ice cream that you should consider. It is that “airport” that Mr. Newsome says it is…a hub, a border crossing…a giant terminal with people coming and going everywhere, mostly not to Charleston. And all too soon, those cruise passengers will be going to Cuba, and with the newly widened Panama Canal, huge ships will be coming in from China, too. And with the 1800’ pier already at Union Pier, there’s plenty of room for any giant ship afloat. Yes, the SPA has agreed to “voluntary limits” on cruise ship sizes and visits, but the SPA refuses to make those limits mandatory or enforceable.
Jonathan B. Tourtellot, a National Geographic fellow and founding director of the Center for Sustainable Destinations, says that a new Union Pier terminal may ultimately diminish and damage Charleston’s attractiveness labeling cruising “the strip mine of tourism.” “Cruise ships can flood a city with people who are not necessarily interested in the place, and it becomes a turn-off to other tourists and locals. The most egregious case in the U.S. is Key West, but it’s a pattern we’ve seen repeated in Dubrovnik and Venice,” Tourtellot said, adding, “Charleston has a strong history of fine-tuning the balance of tourism, but if the [cruise] volume turns up and that balance tilts, it’s very hard to back out. In Dubrovnik, it’s forever changed the nature of the place.”(3) Is this what lies ahead for Charleston?
So on May 12th, how do you think the City Council voted on the Tourism Committee’s final (missing) recommendation to simply “study” alternate cruise terminal locations?
Write your letter TODAY.
—Jay Williams Jr.
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1) Charleston, State Ports Authority scuttle talk of alternative Cruise Terminal Site, Post and Courier
2) Planning Commission wants City to find an alternative site for cruise terminal – Post and Courier
3) Community: All Aboard – Charleston Magazine
INFORMATION ON HOW TO WRITE YOUR LETTER:
Here is a link to the Charleston Communities for Cruise Control that enumerates the top concerns to include in your letter; please be sure to note that this terminal should be moved away from the historic district and downtown.
Letters should be received by September 23rd mailed to this address:
Permit Number SAC-2003-13026
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Regulatory Division
Attn: Mr. Nat Ball
69A Hagood Avenue
Charleston, SC 29403
You may also email your comments to the Coastal Conservation League by noon on September 22nd at this link and they will hand deliver your comments to the Army Corps by the 23rd: