Ever since its establishment in 1738, Drayton Hall has been, and still is, an integral part of the city of Charleston. What happens in the city has an important effect on the character of Drayton Hall. Today, the preservation of downtown Charleston is a vital component of preserving this region, and historically there have been strong ties between preservationists here at Drayton Hall and in the Holy City. In fact, it was the Historic Charleston Foundation that led the campaign locally to secure this site from the Drayton family and ensure its preservation in the early 1970s.
In recent years, there has been growing concern about the increase of cruise ships docking in downtown Charleston and the associated pollution, traffic, and congestion. At its spring meeting in 2011, Drayton Hall’s Advisory Council voted to support the Preservation Society and other preservationists who were calling for controls on the industry. In June, the National Trust, with Drayton Hall’s active support, designated the city as a National Treasure, which is a new campaign in which irreplaceable, critically threatened places across the country receive deep organizational investment from the National Trust and local preservation partners. This results in a coordinated campaign that taps expert resources across the organization, including preservation, advocacy, legal, marketing and fund-raising expertise. Direct action is taken to protect these places and promote their history and significance. Concurrently, the Trust added Charleston to its new “Watch” list of potentially endangered places in America. Such a designation was not anti-jobs or anti-economic development, but rather showed our support of the preservation of downtown and of heritage tourism, the proverbial “goose that lays the golden egg.”
Since that designation, the Trust has acted behind the scenes to achieve two goals: 1) it provided legal advice regarding a city ordinance proposed by the Historic Charleston Foundation and found that the city did have legal standing to support such an ordinance; 2) it provided financial assistance to an economic study commissioned by the Historic Charleston Foundation on the costs and benefits of the cruise ship industry. HCF Executive Director Kitty Robinson says of the study, “Historic Charleston Foundation remains most grateful to the National Trust for its generous contribution which helped underwrite the Economic Impact Study of the cruise ship industry in the City of Charleston. The full report is expected later this month.” This is not just another study. Instead, this study, whose executive summary has been released, assesses both the costs and benefits of the cruise industry on downtown Charleston and does so in a more comprehensive and professional manner than any study to date, and makes clear, practical recommendations for solutions.
To learn more, please read the informative message below from John Hildreth, director of the Eastern Regional Office of the National Trust. Since his office is in Charleston, he has been the project manager for this Trust initiative. For more on the economic study, see the editorial pasted below and the link. While solutions have proved elusive, it is still hoped that they may be found.
National Treasure: City Of Charleston, SC
by John Hildreth
2/16/2012 3:18 PM
Sometimes when we work on particular places or issues we have to dive in deeply and become well versed on things that we seldom associate with historic preservation. My first project at the Trust 25 years ago required me to learn about funerary art, burial practices and cemetery management. Those weren’t exactly subjects I studied in school. I have referred to myself as an “accidental expert” in many things over the years. Add Cruise Ship Tourism to the list.
Last year the National Trust gave Watch List status on our 11 Most Endangered List to the Charleston Waterfront. We took this unprecedented step because of the potential for unregulated cruise ship activity to upset the economic profile and fragile balance of livability that marks Charleston as a special and remarkable city. We had reasonable goals in getting involved in this issue: to foster public dialogue, study legal avenues for regulation and conduct an unbiased assessment of cruise ship tourism. We sought to help resolve the issue here and use these lessons to help other communities facing expansion of cruise tourism. What we found, however, was that the issue was so divisive and contentious locally that our ability to work with city government and maritime officials was compromised.
Working with our partners locally, however, we did help draft a proposed ordinance for regulation and just last week released the results of a study on Cruise Ship Tourism in the historic city of Charleston. The study, entitled The Cruise Industry in Charleston: A Clear Perspective, is enlightening. What we learned, in part, about Cruise Ship Tourism is that:
- The spending and economic benefit from cruise ship activity is spread across the 3 county metropolitan region, yet the costs and negative impacts are almost exclusively concentrated in one part of the downtown historic district.
- The City of Charleston receives no fees or head taxes from the State Ports Authority, yet must provide services to those passengers once off the ship. The SPA collects an estimated $10 million annually from parking and fees from cruise ships.
- The extent of positive economic impact to the economy is inflated, and even if the inflated numbers are accepted does not justify exemption from similar regulations that apply to other tourist activities in the city.
- There is a real potential that cruise ship tourism could begin to displace other forms of tourism in the city.
The report makes several recommendations including: formation of a citizens commission for oversight of the cruise ship activity, management of cruise ships similar to management of other tourism activity within the city, collection of reasonable fees by the city and continued study of the industry’s impact on the city.
We provided significant funding for this study that was conducted by Miley and Associates for the Historic Charleston Foundation. We believe that in methodology and findings this study can be utilized by other communities as they develop their own approaches to cruise tourism. We hope that this study can lead to a better understanding of impacts and more informed public policy regarding cruise ship operations in Charleston. For me, it is an important document in my continuing education as an “accidental expert” in cruise tourism.
The Cruise Industry in Charleston: A Clear Perspective:
Post and Courier Editorial: