To pave or not to pave. That seems to be the question.
The Alljoy community, a small, quiet corner of unincorporated Beaufort County, has staunchly held onto its character as being separate from Bluffton.
That attitude seems to have touched off a debate about whether a paved bike path that would invite more visitors is wanted or necessary, or where said pathway should actually be created, if at all.
The Alljoy Road Pathway Project was one of 24 passed when county voters approved the 2018 One Cent Sales Tax Referendum. In 2019, due to lack of funding, it fell off the list when County Resolution 2019/22 set priorities. Prior to the referendum, however, a study was done and the Alljoy community responded, citing a need for a pedestrian/bike path along Alljoy Road due to safety concerns.
The historic name of the neighborhood is two words – All Joy – although it is frequently seen, as on maps and county documents, as one. It’s named after the All family, who had the first hotel there and called it their “joy,” according to long-time Bluffton resident Annelore Harrell.
Some of that joy seems to have dissipated at the moment, as residents take sides over the proposed pathway plans, which are still in a pre-design phase, according to the Beaufort County website.
Proponents say the path would be desirable for locals and visitors who want to cycle to the small beach and boat landing on the May River rather than drive to the few parking places available. It would be good exercise, a beautiful ride, and would also be a safer route since pedestrians and bikers share the two-lane road with vehicles towing boats to the free county boat landing.
The road is wide enough for vehicular traffic, but the existence of a shoulder fades away the farther one travels from Burnt Church.
Carol Weir, who lives in Hidden Lakes by Red Cedar Elementary School, said both she and her husband are big bike riders, cycling almost every weekend.
“The Alljoy beach, which we used to call Brighton Beach next to the boat landing, is now a county park. It used to be privately owned, so now the public has been explicitly invited to come use it,” Weir said. “The people are nice, polite, welcoming. It’s beautiful, and takes me about 20 minutes from my home. It’s always breezy, great watching the boats going by. I take my rest, I drink my water, I look at the beautiful view, and then I ride home.”
Weir said a dedicated path would be welcome.
“The view is very serene when you get there. The riding there is not at all serene and calming. It is very scary because people ride too close, and the trailers are wide,” she said. “I don’t think the drivers know how close they come, and there’s no good place to pull off because there is no shoulder. And you hope the driver knows what to do and the boat isn’t wobbling.”
Weir said there are always people at the boat landing area – people who come by car, bicycle and golf cart. There are families, couples or groups of people taking advantage of swimming, picnicking and enjoying the view.
“I would say it is very well used,” Weir added.
Alljoy resident John Treadaway and his wife Chris are also in favor of a path, but with some modifications to the plans presented at several community meetings.
“We would like to see that they change the plans slightly to make the path narrower and not go all the way around the beach. They’re talking about making it one way, and it’s going to be tough with people walking, biking and driving with big boats. I don’t think they’re capable of making the turns with a 30- to 35-foot boat,” Treadaway said. “If the bike path were to end at Thomas Lawton that would be pretty ideal. My wife Chris and I walk and ride our bikes a lot, and would like to be able to come back into Old Town, and not feel like we’re going to be run down. I’ve lived in Bluffton 30 years, and just moved down to that area a year ago. We love it and don’t want to see it changed, but a bike path would be good for exercise.”
Like others have commented, the bike path isn’t necessarily the greatest need for the community. Treadaway said the drainage definitely needs to be addressed, and that Alljoy’s county council representative, Mark Lawson, has been in contact with several state representatives to work on it.
As South Carolina State Road S-7-13, any work on the drainage issues as well as the decision about a pathway will be made by the South Carolina Department of Transportation.
In response to increasing interest by residents about drainage issues, county Stormwater Manager Katie Herrera said there will be a public meeting regarding drainage at 6 p.m. Aug. 3 at the Bluffton Recreation Center to clarify which agency has what responsibility.
That should help residents like Bob Williams, who sees the drainage as more important than an additional pervious surface.
“Right in front of my house on Martha Lane there’s a drainage ditch that is connected to a drainage ditch on Allendale Road, and it goes down to the water. Beaufort County has never dug it out,” he said. Citing similar nearby conditions, Williams added that an 8-foot wide pathway – the width that has been proposed – would exacerbate the problem.
Williams said other concerns have to do with the boat landing, trash pickup and whether emergency vehicles will be able to make the turn to respond to a fire in the interior of the neighborhood by the boat landing.
“They’re going to change the entrance to the boat landing. I took my boat down there and tried to do it the way they want, and it’s impossible. Supposedly they want to connect the Town of Bluffton to here because we have a small beach,” said Williams. “Right now we have a trash problem here, and luckily our neighbors pick up the trash. They find all kinds of trash – paper, bottles and needles. With more people coming, it’s going to be more trash and more litter.”
Like many who attended meetings and submitted written comments, Williams wants any pathway to return to the original route first proposed.
“In 2012, there was a proposal to put a bike path down Shad to Ulmer where there is a huge amount of children. That was so they could ride their bikes down the road to the rec center, which now is totally underused because it’s hazardous, because they have to ride on the road. And they could ride their bikes to school,” Williams said. “The whole purpose of the pathway is connecting the Town of Bluffton to Alljoy beach.”
Alljoy residents have cited several issues of concern for their neighborhood. In providing information to the community about those issues, Brittanee Fields, Beaufort County engineering senior administrative specialist, emphasized that, “As a state-owned road, this proposal is only viable if SCDOT approves.” The same holds true about any changes to the boat landing or the addition of a boardwalk.
The public comment period ended July 30, but the materials and the maps used at the public meetings are available at beaufortcountypenny.com/meetings/alljoy-road-pathway-public-meeting.
Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.