Tourists in Paradise: Making the Nature Connection in Coastal South Carolina



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Economic development in the coastal zone of South Carolina has repeatedly relied on the unique characteristics of coastal ecosystems. There is perhaps no better example of this relationship than in Horry and Georgetown counties, where indigo, rice, cotton, tobacco, fish and wildlife, and forest products have, through time, dominated local commerce. Most recently, tourism and residential development are the twin engines of local commerce. The quick transition of the coastal economy from one based on agricultural and natural products produced by the land to one based on tourism and residential development has spawned much controversy regarding how land is used, managed, and regulated. The controversy is perhaps heightened by the fact that historical land uses and disuses as well as regional environmental conditions in coastal South Carolina conspired to produce an area that is still rich in biological and ecological diversity.

The goal of this paper is to explicitly examine the connection between ecological conditions of coastal South Carolina and the people who come here to visit or live. Rather than focusing on environmental problems such as pollution that inevitably follow people, I will focus on trends in land use and the factors that shape the landscape. Here I define the landscape as the mixture of visible elements in an area (i.e., forest, water, cropland) perhaps best seen from an airplane but still consciously and unconsciously perceived by visitors and residents as they travel on the ground from one place to another. I will draw on recent hypotheses regarding how humans view and derive benefit from nature when nature is experienced as a landscape. Lastly, I make suggestions for how community leaders and residents in coastal areas can manage and develop their landscapes to enhance the quality of nature experiences and thus quality of life for both visitors and residents.


This series was made possible through the generous support of HTC, the Horry Telephone Cooperative, Inc.


Coastal Carolina University--Periodicals;Lecture--Series;Tourism--South Carolina--Atlantic Coast;Natural areas--South Carolina--Atlantic Coast;Luken, James O., 1955-


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Tourists in Paradise: Making the Nature Connection in Coastal South Carolina