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Latest News in Sullivan's Island, SC

Dominion Energy's tree pruning plan sparks concerns on Sullivan's Island

SULLIVAN’S ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) — A new project is coming to Sullivan’s Island that would affect the town’s trees.Dominion Energy will start pruning and removing overgrown trees in 2024 to protect nearby power lines. But some people living in the area have concerns.Some of the people News 4 spoke with weren’t happy with the job Dominion did during a similar project back in 2019, and they say they’re worried the same thing will happen again.With its upcoming project to safeguard 16 miles...

SULLIVAN’S ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) — A new project is coming to Sullivan’s Island that would affect the town’s trees.

Dominion Energy will start pruning and removing overgrown trees in 2024 to protect nearby power lines. But some people living in the area have concerns.

Some of the people News 4 spoke with weren’t happy with the job Dominion did during a similar project back in 2019, and they say they’re worried the same thing will happen again.

With its upcoming project to safeguard 16 miles of overhead power lines across Sullivan’s Island, Dominion Energy said it’s working to make sure residents understand the need for this work.

Dominion Energy's tree pruning plan sparks concerns on Sullivan's Island (WCIV)

Read more: "Sullivan's Island council members to reintroduce protective guidelines for Maritime Forest."

“Making sure customers understand how important safeguarding these overhead lines are to ensure not only the safety of our crews but also the safety of the general public,” said Dominion spokesperson Paul Fischer. “And that trees and tree limbs do represent the number one reason for power outages across our system.”

Dominion plans to trim, prune, and sometimes remove trees in the area that have grown too close to powerlines. It’s a project the utility did five years ago, and town officials remember hearing numerous complaints about its impact on trees.

Still, Mayor Patrick O’Neil said he recognizes how the 2019 project helped during recent storms like Hurricane Idalia.

“We were able to maintain continuous power essentially, and that probably would not have been the case if we'd still had a lot of trees that were up intruding on power lines,” said Mayor O’Neil.

Read more: "Dominion Energy to host workshop on vegetation management and safety at Sullivan's Island."

Mayor O’Neil said it’s a challenging issue to balance. The town wants safe, working power, but it also wants to protect and preserve its trees.

Especially Palmettos, which Sullivan’s Island has a deep history.

“Palmettos are a particular source of pain here in many ways because Sullivan's Island, as you know, is where the Palmetto tree became the state symbol,” Mayor O’Neil said.

For some long-time residents, the upcoming project reminds them of how upset they were the first time.

Read more: "'Need to be prosecuted:' Residents react to illegal cutting of Maritime Forest."

“I lived here in 2019 when Dominion was last here. And, I was very concerned, grieved, and outraged over what they did last time,” said Karen Byko, who’s lived in the area for 12 years.

Byko said Dominion violated the town's ANSI-300 pruning standards, causing trees to look tattered and butchered.

“I looked around at the work that they were doing, and honestly, I started to cry,” Byko said. “That's the quality or the lack of quality of work that was being performed at the time.”

Read more: "Edisto palmetto trees being cut down for safety precautions by Dominion Energy."

Byko hopes Dominion will listen to residents and do a better job this time.

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Dominion said the project is expected to start in January, and the work should be complete in about three months.

Visitors and residents recall coyote encounters, attacks on Sullivan’s Island

SULLIVAN’S ISLAND, S.C. (WCSC) - Several Sullivan’s Island dog walkers and regulars are speaking up about their personal experiences with coyotes.This comes a day after town officials reported five coyote-led attacks involving dogs within the month of August.They say the wild animals has been approaching people, dogs and roaming open areas of the beach more often than usual.The Jourdan family says they experienced a too-close encounter with a coyote over the weekend.“They were out halfway to the ...

SULLIVAN’S ISLAND, S.C. (WCSC) - Several Sullivan’s Island dog walkers and regulars are speaking up about their personal experiences with coyotes.

This comes a day after town officials reported five coyote-led attacks involving dogs within the month of August.

They say the wild animals has been approaching people, dogs and roaming open areas of the beach more often than usual.

The Jourdan family says they experienced a too-close encounter with a coyote over the weekend.

“They were out halfway to the water, from the dune, so middle of the beach. And they were attacked by coyotes,” Jourdan said.

Five-year-old Willie Nelson, the Jourdan family dog, was taken by two coyotes early Saturday morning while on a walk with a babysitter.

Jourdan says it happened in broad daylight and in the middle of the beach.

He adds the family was devastated by the loss of their “wonder dog.”

“I was trying to get closure for my family’s sake, for Willie, because we weren’t even there. Which was frustrating. I crawled on my belly for over four miles between stations 26 and 28,” Jourdan said.

The attack occurred at Station 27, a part of the beach several residents have called a “breeding ground” for coyote packs.

Officials with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources say the breed has been approaching people, dogs and roaming open areas of the beach more often.

They add that mid-summer and fall are peak active times for these animals, meaning it is when coyotes migrate to new spaces, feed and have young.

SCDNR officials say another reason for the increased interactions could be from them being opportunistic feeders, meaning they will be quick and take anything they need.

Others say they have been chased by coyotes in the past but escaped.

“We were walking in June when a coyote came out of the dunes and started chasing,” Sullivan’s regular Shelly Carson said. “I was able to chase it away, and it ran down the beach to chase a golden retriever.”

Now, they avoid the area altogether or take proactive measures to be able to walk safely.

“I’ve always known there are coyotes here,” Carson said. “Never seen one until this year. Really, March was the first time I had my first sighting and started carrying pepper spray on the beach. In June I started carrying a birdie alarm. And now I carry a stick with me too.”

Visitors are asking for help from officials to curb the problem.

“It’s close to our hearts, but the coyote system is unfortunately not something that is new, declining or lessened. Rather the opposite,” Jourdan said.

They ask for coyote population control, area management and listening to residential concerns.

Town officials say they do have systems in place to manage the problem, which include education, tracking, hazing and lethal control.

They ask anyone who experiences an encounter or sighting to report the problem immediately.

If you run into a coyote, you’re advised to react loudly, throw small sticks or cans or spray the animal with water.

For more information on coyotes along Sullivan’s Island, click here.

Copyright 2023 WCSC. All rights reserved.

SCE&G’s former seaside worker perk eyed for $30M-plus social club on Sullivan’s Island

SULLIVAN’S ISLAND — A newly formed development group plans to invest more than $30 million to acquire and renovate a 90-year-old, vacant private oceanfront club on this seaside enclave.But elected officials want more details before signing off on allowing a commercial project in a residential area....

SULLIVAN’S ISLAND — A newly formed development group plans to invest more than $30 million to acquire and renovate a 90-year-old, vacant private oceanfront club on this seaside enclave.

But elected officials want more details before signing off on allowing a commercial project in a residential area.

Sullivan’s Island Bathing Co. is asking the town to allow a members-only social venture called the Ocean Club at 1735 Atlantic Ave. as a conditional use in an area zoned for single-family homes.

Shep Davis, the development firm’s managing partner, pointed out last week that the property operated as a private club for close to a century without being open to island residents.

Under this latest proposal, they’ll have that option for the first time — at a cost of a $60,000 sign-up fee and an estimated $500 in monthly dues.

The property had been known for decades as the Sand Dunes Club. It was a private beachside retreat for employees of the former South Carolina Electric & Gas Co., which Dominion Energy acquired in early 2019 after the V.C. Summer nuclear plant debacle 18 months earlier.

The Richmond, Va.-based utility closed the property at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, and it never reopened, according to attorney Brian Hellman, a Sullivan’s resident who is representing the development group.

Built in 1933 for $14,000, the then 5,400-square-foot structure was called Jasper Hall, an officer’s club for military personnel stationed at nearby Fort Moultrie. SCE&G acquired it in the 1950s and expanded it over the years to just under 10,000 square feet.

Davis said the property has not been properly kept up for several years and is in disrepair.

One neighbor recently complained of the uncovered pool starting to smell and becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Hellman and Davis said the pool is being maintained.

$30 million-plus

Davis estimated it will take an investment of “in excess of $30 million” for his group to buy the property, overhaul the building and amenities and place a stormwater retention pond underground. Retrofitting the pool alone, he said could cost half a million dollars.

Real Estate

Improvement plans include offering separate pools for families and adults, upgrading the existing building and landscaping the parking area. The developers also would add a fitness center, dining terrace and gazebo along with a new entry area off a beach access path.

“We can preserve the building and re-create the club for its historical use,” Davis said.

Hellman said the current proposal comes after gathering input during several meetings with residents and town leaders over the past few months.

He said the private-membership venue will provide a place for homeowners to eat and exercise without having to drive off the island or jockey for tables with tourists at the restaurants in the town’s small business district.

“It will be a gathering place to socialize that won’t compete with beachgoers,” Hellman said. “Dining will not be open to the general public and will reduce the need for residents to leave the island.”

The 3.5-acre club site is owned by a company affiliated with Charleston real estate investor John Derbyshire, the former owner of the chain of Money Man Pawn shops. The firm paid Dominion $16.2 million for the property in 2022, according to Charleston County land records.

A large house is being built for Derbyshire, who plans to remain a partner in the project, on part of the property next to the club, according to Hellman.

Members matters

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The developer said the goal is that the Ocean Club will be open to all Sullivan’s residents who want to join. Davis estimated the venture will need at least 400 members to get the project off the ground.

The proposed Ocean Club would give priority to individuals and families who primarily reside on the island, said Jim Wanless, one of the partners. Off-island residents could join, too.

Real Estate

The proposed parking rules to allow a social club in a residential area require at least one parking space for every 10 memberships whose primary or secondary residences are within 2½ miles. Sixty percent of those spaces must be designated for golf carts and low-speed vehicles.

For members living outside the 2½-mile range, which is basically anyone who doesn’t live on Sullivan’s, one vehicle parking space would be required for every five memberships.

The rules also would require one bicycle space — through a rack or corral — for every 20 memberships.

“For whatever the number will be of those living off the island, they most certainly would come by car,” Davis said. “On-island residents would have much less need for parking” since they’d have the option to come by golf cart, bike or foot.

Tentative plans call for 50 car parking spaces, at least an equal number of golf cart spaces and “adequate” bicycle parking spaces, Hellman said.

Though the membership will be open to all island residents, the developers don’t expect everyone to join. They also have not set a cap on membership.

“We are trying to come up with the right number of members for the club without excluding property owners,” Davis said.

Talking to the town

During a public workshop last week, where a standing-room-only crowd spilled into the hallway, the developers addressed a list of written questions from elected officials, including the benefit to the town if the club is allowed.

A decades-old Lowcountry truck terminal was idled this summer by a high-profile business failure, its owner running on fumes.

It’s poised to rev back to life.

The former Yellow Corp. depot between Rivers Avenue and Interstate 26 in North Charleston and two others in South Carolina are among the properties that onetime rivals of the fallen company and other opportunistic buyers snapped up at a U.S. Bankruptcy Court auction in Delaware.

The sales, totaling about $1.9 billion for about 75 percent of the roughly 180 freight yards and service centers that went on the block, were approved last week.

The other Palmetto State sites changing hands are in West Columbia and Piedmont, southwest of Greenville.

Yellow’s remaining real estate holdings are still in play, including a recently shuttered terminal in Florence.

The North Charleston depot had been in business since at least 1967, when it was run by a familiar name in the tractor-trailer business: Roadway Express.

Twenty years ago Nashville-based Yellow eased into the fast lane. It acquired Roadway for $1.05 billion in December 2003 and became the No. 3 player in the U.S. logistic industry’s “less-than-truckload” niche, which specializes in moving smaller loads for multiple customers within a single trailer.

Some two decades on, Yellow was broken down on the side of the road. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in August after years of financial struggles and $1.3 billion in debt, not including its unsecured liabilities.

The collapse marked the biggest-ever failure of a U.S. trucking business. It was more than noteworthy that just three years earlier Yellow had received $700 million in pandemic-era loans from the U.S. government to keep it afloat.

Rather than try to fix the financial wear and tear, the fallen 99-year-old trucking icon known for its cheap rates decided instead to shut down and sell its real estate, rigs and other assets to repay creditors.

Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse a Last of its Kind: Beacon of the Beach

Every nightfall, a rotating light pulsates around Sullivan’s Island twice every 30 seconds. The luminous source is the Charleston Light, also referred to as the Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse, which has stood watch over the cozy beach town for more than six decades.When the pillar of light was first lit on June 15, 1962, it was recorded as the last major lighthouse in the United States built by the federal government. It was also the second brightest lighthouse in the Western Hemisphere, according to Fort Moultrie National H...

Every nightfall, a rotating light pulsates around Sullivan’s Island twice every 30 seconds. The luminous source is the Charleston Light, also referred to as the Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse, which has stood watch over the cozy beach town for more than six decades.

When the pillar of light was first lit on June 15, 1962, it was recorded as the last major lighthouse in the United States built by the federal government. It was also the second brightest lighthouse in the Western Hemisphere, according to Fort Moultrie National Historical Park guide Shelby McAllister.

The Charleston Light was erected to replace the defunct Morris Island Light, which was rebuilt in the 1870s after being destroyed in the Civil War. The lighthouse was at risk of being destroyed again by erosion and was later decommissioned.

Standing at 162.5 feet tall, approaching vessels in the Charleston Harbor could see the flash of the Charleston Light’s 28-million candlepower beam from more than 50 miles offshore. Five years after its construction, its wattage was reduced to 1.2-million candlepower, but it is still visible more than 25 miles away.

Its bright light wasn’t the only thing that caught people’s eyes. Many residents felt the original red and white color scheme was an eyesore. As the sun bleached the red to orange, it was decided that a paint job was in order. Black and white was the popular choice, so the Charleston Light received a makeover.

Sixty-one years later, the mid-century monolithic structure serves as more of a nautical landmark than a navigational aid, but its maritime history is not lost at sea. It was a fixture of the U.S. Coast Guard Historic District that includes buildings dating back to 1894.

When the Coast Guard automated the lighthouse in 1975, it no longer needed a keeper. In 2008, the Coast Guard relinquished ownership to the National Park Service.

THE MAN BEHIND THE LIGHT

Architect Jack Graham’s creation was not only the last of its kind, but it was also one of a kind. His vision for the lighthouse lit up in his mind when he was a 25-year-old graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Architecture and a serviceman in the Coast Guard.

In Graham’s last month of active duty, a supervisor gave him a final assignment of designing a lighthouse. The Coast Guard was displeased with the previous drawings that made it resemble a World War I battleship signal tower. By the time Graham was finished, it looked like an air traffic control tower.

Unlike typical circular lighthouses, Graham’s design was triangular with steel girders for the framework and aluminum alloy for siding. He credited his modernist approach and design to his college professor Louis Kahn, an influential modern architect in the post-World War II era known for his monumental and brutalist style.

In September 1989, Graham’s work would be put to the test when Hurricane Hugo lashed the island as a Category 5. The lighthouse’s design was intended to withstand winds up to 125 miles per hour. Hugo brought winds of 160 miles per hour, and the lighthouse never faltered.

In 2009, on Graham’s 75th birthday, he was able to view his creation from the top as he rode in the elevator for the first time. He wasn’t aware that his design was used for the lighthouse until three years after it was built, when he was flipping through a boating magazine.

The lighthouse became eligible to be listed on the National Register as part of the structures in the Coast Guard Historic District in 2012. That same year marked the structure’s 50th anniversary, during which Graham was recognized for the first time with an official ceremony and a historical marker on site.

Before Graham’s passing in June 2022, his wife Martha, who lives in Maryland, wrote “The Charleston Light and The Adventures of Scoops the Seagull.” The children’s book is about the lighthouse, which her beloved husband nicknamed “Sulli.”

Graham’s story lives on in the annals of history and is rekindled every time the sun sinks down past the horizon on Sullivan’s Island. That’s when the lighthouse and Graham’s legacy truly come to life.

Today, the lighthouse stands as one of the most technologically advanced for its time. It is the only lighthouse in America that has both an elevator and air conditioning, according to McAllister.

Due to ongoing problems with the elevator, there are no plans to open the lighthouse to the public. Of the 15 historic lighthouses in the state, none are currently open to the public due mainly to structural issues, she noted.

“This is history that is slowly disappearing, but not many people realize that,” McAllister added.

The National Park Service celebrates National Lighthouse Day every August by opening the Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse grounds to the public. The last time the lighthouse was open for tours was 2018.

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