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MI 2020 looks to fireworks education

  • Thursday, August 14, 2014

Anita Crone/South Strand News David Goettel makes a point while Gary O’Loughlin waits his turn during the Aug. 11 special meeting of the MI2020 board of directors meeting.

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The Murrells Inlet 2020 Board of Directors on Aug. 11 iterated its stance against fireworks in the Inlet and over the marsh, and went a step farther.

The board and its Advisory Committee pushed its stance on educating people about the potential problems with fireworks in the marsh – both the Monday night events and the nightly shootings from rental homes along the marsh and in Garden City Beach.

The board noted that the community was looking to it for leadership in addressing potential problems from fireworks, including metals and debris from the mortars as well as noise and the ensuing problems affecting oysters and wildlife.

The board said it would initiate a meeting with the Marshwalk Group to discuss the weekly fireworks, now in the second year, authorized Renee Williams, executive director, to include information about the problems with fireworks in MI 2020’s various social media and to authorize the program committee to work with Gary Weinreich to minimize fireworks.

Weinreich and his wife, Jeanne, have noted problems with fireworks, and on at least three occasions have asked the board to take a leadership role in combating the pyrotechnics.

“We don’t endorse the fireworks. We don’t care to see them. We don’t care to hear them. We don’t care to read about them. We don’t care to have the media ask us questions about them,” said Sean Bond, MI 2020 board chairman.

The MI 2020 members were careful about the wording of their comments, noting that they did not want to exacerbate a perceived rift between the board and members of the Marshwalk Group, an organization of restaurateurs, which has organized the Monday night fireworks.

“We need to educate the public,” said Denise Shelley. “We’re not a governing body. We don’t make the laws. We’re not the Sierra Club. We’re Murrells Inlet 2020, and while we should support our community, there are many other issues we need to address.”

Linda Connell also noted her opposition to the fireworks.

“I’m against the fireworks being shot over the inlet. I’ve always felt that way. There’s no doubt in my mind that harm to our creek comes from these fireworks,” she said.

“We have actual examples of litter being left in the inlet, and that is part of our mission, to protect the inlet.”

She said that a 10-minute fireworks display uses about 250 shells and leaves about 9 pounds of debris.

“I’m not talking just about the Monday night event I’m talking all of it,” Connell said.

“We have a clear vision for the inlet,” said vice chairwoman Sandra Bunday. “Failing to take a leadership role with pollution going into the creek could have serious negative impact for our organization.”

Citing the economic impact statement, she said the direct impact of the marsh is conservatively set at $720 million and fireworks has the potential to cause a problem with the marsh.

“We have seen the pollution and it is 100 percent preventable, “ she said, referencing debris collected after the Monday night events.

“I didn’t realize the damage [the fireworks] were causing,” said Calvin Watters. “It’s important that we educate the public and let the politicians take the lead in fighting this,” he said.

“Maybe people can find another place to shoot them – not in the inlet. We need to find a better place not just for the visitors but for us who live here.”

Whitney Hills suggested getting the key players in a room and talking about the issue. She said that the problem is not new, but that the approach is.

“I’d like to offer myself as one of the people to meet with the key players.”

Citing the problems with the Chesapeake Bay and the West Coast oysters, David Goettel said he does not want the same thing to happen to the Inlet oysters.

“We have two major stresses on the oysters,” he said, citing low ph and runoff. “Once the oysters go, the shrimp will go and the fish will go. If we lose the inlet, people are not going to want to come here.”

“This organization has to have the courage to do what’s right,” said Gary O’Loughlin. “We are poisoning the inlet.”

O’Loughlin said that Dr. Susan Liebes, who made a presentation to MI2020 last year, responded as a scientist. “She just said what she could prove.” He suggested going to some groups and get some grants to study the issue.

“If we don’t do something by next summer, there will be more anarchists like Gary, but they won’t be as nice,” he joked, referring to Weinreich.

He suggested that at the very least MI2020 work with the Marshwalk Group on a cleanup plan after every show.

“One of the things we need to focus on is the environmental health of the creek,” he said. “It’s not for us to sit back. The issue is not stopping fireworks, it’s not poisoning the creek.”

Asserting that she doesn’t have a scientist’s brain, Linda Lane said her issue was more of image.

“I want to look at this issue as how we can stay aesthetically pleasing. In the long term, we want to keep our image.”

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