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What Do Coastal Residents Want?

Feb 10, 2013 | News

Residents of three rapidly changing communities in northern Charleston County share respect for the health of local waterways that transcends divisions of race or household wealth.

“We’re trying to get a holistic picture of what people are thinking about the coast and its waterways and what they want for the coast,” says Sea Grant researcher Annette Watson, a geographer at the College of Charleston.

Watson and her colleagues are studying three different populations—commercial, subsistence, and recreational fishermen—in rural McClellanville, suburbanizing Awendaw, and urbanizing Mount Pleasant.

Additional growth is predicted to occur along this corridor of Interstate 17 known as the “Sewee to Santee” region, which is the focus of an ongoing planning effort.

This research will not focus on tensions that exist but instead will address similarities in social-ecological relationships for the purpose of planning, Watson says.

In-migrants are often considerably wealthier than their neighbors, driving up the cost of living and economically marginalizing longtime residents. In some coastal communities, commercial fishermen are in conflict with recreational or subsistence fishermen.

But Watson and her colleagues will use innovative interviewing techniques and quantitative analysis to help long-time residents and in-migrants identify special fishing places that they want to protect, and find commonalities for planning purposes.

The project aims to determine the senses of place experienced by life-long residents; spatially measure access to coastal resources historically used by life-long residents; determine the relationship between long-term residents’ economic practices and their environmental values; test whether different community identities can find commonalities in their values; and develop common indicators that community leaders can use to track changes through time.