09 Jul 2007

Another Rural Tradition Banned

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They weren’t recorded, registered, taxed, or regulated. Naturally, urban-dwelling environmentalists hated the river shacks of rural South Carolina, and they recently succeeded in persuading the Palmetto State’s greasy pols to impose a permit system incorporating a sunset law completely eliminating these private refuges of individual freedom from South Carolina’s waters in five years. The state’s governor expressed regret at the death of a rural tradition, but he wouldn’t stick his neck out by vetoing the new law.

These days, Huck Finn would not be permitted to raft down the river to get away from Aunt Polly and her civilized regime of rules. Old ladies of both sexes have long since taken care to extend the jurisdiction of the Leviathan state right down every river’s main channel, and up every tributary and every backwater, lest some free American escape from civilization and its discontents, or evade its taxes and its rules.

New York Times:

For who knows how long, people have plopped these river shacks into watery coves and curves along the South Carolina coast. They permanently anchor their shacks miles from the nearest landing and use them to fish, hunt or just get off the grid for a while. Some contraptions are so modest that to call them shacks is too kind, while others are so well appointed that they all but cry out for granite countertops and potpourri.

It all sounds so innocent, so idyllic — so American, in a Huck Finn kind of way. That is, until you consider that the river shack owners are essentially laying claim to public property without paying license fees, taxes or, in some cases, even respect. A few people use the river as their personal toilet; others abandon their shacks, leaving the structures to rot amid the natural splendor.

But environmentalists who see these shacks as an affront to the concept of resource management recently succeeded in lobbying for their extinction. This spring the state passed a law requiring owners to seek permits for the structures — recent surveys counted at least 170 on several rivers and Lake Marion — with the stipulation that in five years all shacks must be removed from the water. …

The issue even posed a dilemma for Gov. Mark Sanford, who ultimately decided to allow the river shack bill to pass into law without his signature. While he supports land preservation, he explained in a letter to legislators, he wonders about increasing gentrification, and “the idea that someone could tie a bunch of 55-gallon drums together and stake out a house on the waterway is representative of what I would consider the magic of ‘old time South Carolina.’ ”

But Patrick Moore, a lawyer working for the Coastal Conservation League, which led the legislative fight against river shacks, sees no dilemma. “The idea that these shacks are some sort of entitlement of our natural heritage is, frankly, an insult to that very heritage,” he says.


7 Feedbacks on "Another Rural Tradition Banned"

David Moelling

Remember Open Space is intended to keep the riff raff out, not to be used in any form.

I’ve noticed this in New England, where our town is on an openspace buying spree. I’ve got two energetic retrievers and we are out somewhere in the woods about everyday. I see very few people EXCEPT when there is an organized Green organization event. Then the crowds are so large as to really spoil the solitude!


My Mother (from South Carolina, both parents are staunch individualists) will be heartbroken and appalled to read this. Thanks for the heads-up, but no thanks for another bit of sadness.

Steve Bodio

Unbelievable. I like to think the South, even more than the (new) West, is the last hope of old traditions. This is a terrible precedent, and the arrogance of its supporters is all too typical.

Patrick Moore

My name is Patrick Moore, I am a lifelong South CArolina resident, outdoorsman, and author of the legislation that gets rid of these structures.

An important thing to remember is that these shacks were already in violation of the Clean Water Act, South Carolina Pollution Control Act, Federal and State navigation standards, and federal and state tax codes. Due to the unique nature of the structures and the unwillingness of any one agency to step in and remedy the untreated discharges, navigation hazards and unpaid taxes, new legislation was required.

Under your logic, I could plop a shack in Yosemite National Park.

I respect your right to defend raw sewage in the drinking water and squatting on puiblic land, but with all due respect, this was a local solution to a local problem and you dont know what you are talking about. These owners had greater access and impact on the resource while they did not pay into the funds intended to manage that resource like other outdoorsman. It is an issue of fundamental fairness and resource stewardship.



You can run

..but you can’t hide.

If Ravenel is convicted of distribution of cocaine, he can serve as much as 20 years in prison. I would say that it is more likely that he will cut a “plea deal” to serve a short amount of time behind bars along with probation.

If Ravenel cuts a “plea deal”, in other words, “pleads guilty” then the Feds should insist that he roll over on a “Bigger Fish” If he does not roll over, then he should do some serious jail time with the rest of the “Cocaine Distributors”.

shawn bourgeois

i just came across this and honestly i am appalled. river shacks add to the complete natural beauty of south carolina, and the south in general. you’re a piece of shit, patrick moore.

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