Characterization of the Ashepoo-Combahee-Edisto (ACE) Basin, South Carolina
Nature-based tourism and Public Access Management Issues and Goals
Three critical issues must be considered in planning for long-term sustainability in the ACE Basin: 1) increased public demand for access to and use of the Basin's resources; 2) visitor management and resource protection strategies to secure the Basin against overuse and inconsistent use of its resources; and 3) economic development initiatives that can leverage the intrinsic value of the area's natural wealth without compromising the integrity of the environment. Nature-based tourism is a development tool that addresses these issues and serves as a valuable stimulus for sustainable economic development in the ACE Basin. However, for the Basin to take advantage of its unique resource base and leverage its proximity to recognized destinations, it needs a focal point from which to manage and direct visitor experiences. The vision for the ACE Basin involves a network of interpretive, educational, recreational, and research facilities. The critical components are a centrally located education/interpretive center to serve as the primary visitor reception center and provide a broad overview of the Basin; a research field station dedicated to estuarine and marine research; and five satellite interpretive centers and recreation areas strategically located throughout the Basin.
Public access and recreational use of the ACE Basin is a critical issue facing managers. In the ACE Basin study area, public activities are primarily conducted at the two state parks, two wildlife management areas, one national wildlife refuge, and one NERR as well as the approximately 30 public boat ramps. While the public demands access to these resources, delicate and sensitive habitats and resources must be protected. Public access and use may not be compatible in some areas and under certain circumstances. Significant impacts need to be better defined in the context of long-term environmental costs and not just in terms of public recreational benefits. Once there is a sufficient database on numbers of users, their experiences and their impacts on the resources, resource managers should be in a position to make better decisions. Recommendations are made to provide public access to all elements of the Basin and expose visitors to representative aspects of the watershed with opportunities for environmental awareness and compatible recreation while protecting the natural integrity of the area.