Calm waters surround a forested island.
Morgan Park A view from the water provides a different perspective of Morgan Park. © Sam Wolfe Photography

Stories in South Carolina

Building a Shoreline

The Boyd Living Shoreline in Georgetown will help reduce erosion at Morgan Park while creating new habitat for crabs, oysters and shrimp.

Our South Carolina shorelines are alive with swaying marsh grasses, water-filtering oysters and darting shrimp. But did you know that the same natural features that give us great fishing and afternoons near the water can also stabilize our shore from erosion? 

The future Boyd Living Shoreline will enhance Morgan Park in Georgetown, South Carolina by helping to control erosion and providing habitat for crab, shrimp, oysters and fish. Find out more about the project below!

Gloved hands use a tape measure to measure the growth of an oyster encrusted section of reef.
Measuring Progress A volunteer measures oysters at a reef built on Goldbug Island. © Andrea Margiotta

Project Timeline


  • Launch project. (DONE)
  • Hire contractors for design and monitoring. (DONE)
  • Submit permits. (DONE)


  • Coastal Carolina University conducts baseline monitoring. (IN PROGRESS)
  • DHEC living shoreline permit approved (DONE)
  • USACE in-water permit approved (DONE)
  • Construction begins.


  • Complete construction.
  • Coastal Carolina University conducts post-installation monitoring.

Why a Living Shoreline?

Boat wakes and high tides are eroding Morgan Park. Left alone, sand will wash away until the park barely remains. A living shoreline can help reverse the process.

In addition to reducing or reversing erosion by trapping sediment, living shorelines have amazing added benefits:

Keep Water Clean - One grown oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day. Imagine how many gallons a whole reef can clean!

Provide Wildlife Habitat (shrimp, crab, fish, shorebirds) - You'll notice that the best fishing is around healthy oyster reefs and marshes.

Absorb Wave Energy – Sea walls don’t absorb energy, they redirect it. That means building a sea wall here could worsen erosion in another area nearby. Living shorelines, in contrast, absorb wave energy, slowing down over natural materials, oyster shells and marsh grasses.

Building a living shoreline at Morgan Park will give the shoreline a chance to heal itself, while also helping local water quality and wildlife.

A sandy beach meets calm water in South Carolina.
Morgan Park The Nature Conservancy is working on a living shoreline project at Morgan Park in South Carolina. © Cara Chancellor / TNC

What Will the Living Shoreline Look Like?

You’ll be able to see many parts of the Boyd Living Shoreline, especially at low tide.  It is made up of three parts:

Wattle Fence Sills: Closest to shore and visible at low tide are the wattle fence sills.  These wooden bundles were built by local volunteers, using wood from the nearby Baruch Institute. They help trap sediment near the shoreline so marsh grasses can grow.

Manufactured Wire Reefs: These wire cages provide an ideal habitat for baby oysters – called spat – to settle and begin growing into reefs. Healthy oyster reefs help clean the water and provide critical habitat for baby fish and crabs.

Wooden Breakwater: The poles you see offshore help reduce wave energy and erosion. They will slow the forces eroding Morgan Park and also protect the other parts of the shoreline as it becomes established.

What Comes Next?

As the shoreline heals itself, you should see more grasses, shorebirds, fish and wildlife, and less bare sand. The grasses hold sediment in place and also help keep our water clean!

A proposed design for the Boyd Living Shoreline project in South Carolina.
Boyd Living Shoreline A proposed design for the Boyd Living Shoreline project in South Carolina. © The Nature Conservancy

The Big Picture

The Nature Conservancy's efforts at Morgan Park build on achievements at places like Goldbug Island, where TNC and several partners installed a living shoreline near Charleston. The project demonstrates the value and effectiveness of nature-based solutions for restoring areas of marsh that were experiencing significant erosion.

Goldbug Island: A Case Study in Success

The reef at Goldbug Island was designed to ensure that materials were elevated out of the mud to promote optimal oyster growth and attenuate wave energy. Due to the soft nature of the sediment, the base of the reef is made of wooden pallets, which support a layer of Oyster Castles™ and a layer of bagged oyster shell.

Today, Goldbug Island's living shoreline—at 225' long, 4' wide, and 1.5' high—remains the longest reef installed by TNC to date. TNC's staff and partners in South Carolina continue to monitor oyster growth, vegetation growth and sediment accretion annually.

Goldbug Island in 2019.
Goldbug Island in 2016.
Goldbug Island Living Shoreline The Nature Conservancy transformed Goldbug Island from an area that was eroding from heavy wave and boat activity to a stabilized shoreline that supports healthy marsh grass and multiple size classes of thriving oysters. © The Nature Conservancy/Cara Chancellor

Build Your Own Living Shoreline

We’re excited to share the good news that private property owners now can apply for a permit to protect their property by building their own living shoreline! This new permit process is the culmination of more than a decade of pilot installations (including Goldbug Island) and monitoring, led by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR), TNC and other partners.

So, where do you start?

Ultimately, you’ll want to contact DHEC for all living shoreline permit conversations. Before reaching out, though, here are some resources to help you decide if a living shoreline is the right choice to protect your property:

  • DHEC’s Living Shorelines describes the permit development, research completed and regulatory definitions. 
  • Clemson Extension offers additional information regarding costs, how to select an installation method and how to measure success, as well as training and educational opportunities.
  • TNC’s Living Shoreline Explorer Application provides a preliminary look at specific site conditions that are important to consider (energy levels, shoreline change and harvest areas). 

To request a pre-application meeting with DHEC OCRM, please contact Blair Williams, Critical Area Permitting Section Manager, at

We know that any new permit process can seem daunting, and we’re here to help. Reach out to Joy Brown at TNC at any time with questions about evaluating or developing your own living shoreline project.

Marine Research

Coastal Carolina University marine science students and their professors—Keith Walters and Paul Gayes—have visited sites at East Bay and Morgan Park to establish baseline data and regularly monitor the living shoreline, from the water using gillnets and by air with a LIDAR drone.

A woman stands among grasses with equipment on her back.
Two people stand along a shoreline to take measurements.
A man stands next to a drone on a beach.
A researcher takes notes on a grassy slope.
A researcher braves the surf to collect marine science data.
A yellow cage floats in the surf.
Four researchers stand in the surf.
A group of seven college students pose around a drone.
Three people stretch a rope across shallow surf.
A drone is situated in sand next to water.

Wattle Fencing

Staff from the Shoreline Restoration Group and TNC guided community volunteers in rebuilding the shoreline at East Bay Park. Volunteers assembled 63 bundles of branches collected from the Baruch Institute. Then they tied bundles into x-shaped structures to place in shallow water at Morgan Park to trap sediment and restore the eroding shoreline.

Three people tie big sticks together in a bundle.
Two gloved hands tie string around a bundle of sticks.
Two women tie large sticks together.
A man wearing a hat and blue gloves ties large sticks into a bundle.
Two people hold either end of a bundle of large sticks.

Manufactured Wire Reefs

Under the direction of Pastor Perry Funnie, the carpentry director at Carvers Bay Early College and Career High School in Hemingway, students built 104 manufactured wire reefs to be used in the Boyd Living Shoreline. The used more than two cubic yards of oyster shell, 3,600 square feet of wire and 100 pounds of coconut coir fiber for the project.

Two people move wire through machinery.
Two people work with large pieces of wire.
A group of young people work with wire.
A young adult uses tools to work with wire.
A young adult uses tools to work with wire.
An elderly woman looks off in the distance.
Susan Boyd In 2020, the Darnell W. and Susan F. Boyd Foundation announced a $997,000 gift to TNC to construct a living shoreline at East Bay and Morgan parks in South Carolina. © Sam Wolfe Photography

A Transformational Gift

In December 2020, the Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Foundation announced a $997,000 gift to The Nature Conservancy to construct a one-acre living shoreline at East Bay and Morgan parks in Georgetown. It’s the Foundation’s first gift outside of the Columbia area. 

“We’re very interested in lots of nature things," says Columbia icon Susan Boyd of her family’s foundation. “This [project] sounded really interesting to Donny. He loves oysters and he could see them disappearing.”

“Donny” is Susan’s late husband, Darnall, who created the foundation that bears his and Susan’s names.

A group of eleven people pose along a shoreline.
Boyd Living Shoreline Susan Boyd and George Bailey from the Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Foundation visit the Boyd Living Shoreline project.. © Sam Wolfe Photography
A group of people stand in a semi-circle around a table with maps and information set up on a beach in the shade of two trees.
Boyd Living Shoreline Joining Susan Boyd was City of Georgetown Mayor Brendon Barber and representatives from Boeing South Carolina, which generously provided funds for this project. © Sam Wolfe Photography

Columbia, where the Foundation is based, has benefited from a complete reinvention of Boyd Plaza, upgrades to historic homes and gardens and creation of the Sanctuary at Boyd Island, off the Saluda Riverwalk, among other projects.

“We are people who love the outdoors, hunting and traveling,” adds Susan. “The longer we were able to do that, the more things we saw being lost. It encouraged us to do something about it.”

This new project fulfills that desire. Living shorelines play a key role in reducing erosion, as sea walls do, but are constructed from marsh grasses and oyster reefs that also welcome wildlife.

“The Foundation focuses on outdoor recreation, education and beauty, as well as improving wildlife habitat,” says George Bailey, the Foundation’s president. “It’s our objective to improve the quality of life for people in the Midlands and create an incredible legacy for the Boyd family.”

“I love this project, and I think it’s very worthwhile to save part of the world,” adds Susan. “And so I’m glad we’re doing it.”

Support This Work

Want to learn more about living shorelines?

  • A woman wearing a yellow jacket and hat stands waist-high in water.

    Learn More

    Contact TNC's South Carolina marine program manager, Joy Brown to learn more about the program, including how to get regular updates. Contact Joy Brown

  • A woman with long brown hair stands in front of large palm tree fronds.

    Donate Today

    Contact TNC's South Carolina director of philanthropy, Elizabeth Foster, to contribute to the Boyd Living Shoreline or other living shoreline projects in South Carolina. Contact Elizabeth Foster