The future of Shem Creek

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – Charleston is a place steeped in history, peppered with historic landmarks. Among the most popular is Mount Pleasant’s Shem Creek, which has undergone many changes over the years, but stands a pillar of the community for generations past, present, and hopefully future.

The first record of Shem Creek dates back to the 1600’s, when a line kiln and distillery sat upon its banks. In the 1800’s, mills and factories lined the shore. Now packed with restaurants, eateries like “The Mill Street Tavern” nod to the history of the area.

Millions of memories have been made on Shem Creek throughout the years.

It holds a special place in the heart of artist Kevin Harrison. He uses his paintings to evoke a feeling of nostalgia, like the one he feels when he looks at the creek:

“If it conjures up a memory or a feeling.., then I’ve done my job right.”

Kevin Harrison

Jimmy Bagwell has a soft spot for Shem Creek as well. The founder of ‘Save Shem Creek’ and former Town Council member grew up on the creek and saw how it changed as the shrimping industry boomed in the 1960’s and 1970’s. He said it was “an amazing hub for the commercial fishing industry.”

Taylor and Cindi Tarvin own Tarvin Seafood. Taylor is also one of the last remaining shrimpers on Shem Creek. He says that big changes came in the 1980’s when restaurants moved in.

Now, Shem Creek is known for its restaurants. A recent economic impact study suggests Shem Creek contributes around $100 million to the local economy each year.

But some worry that the constant changes come at too high of a price.

Jamie Huff, captain of Redfish Mafia, has been fishing the creek for 25 years. He sees boaters, kayakers, and restaurant patrons not respecting the area. He says “the amount of ignorance in the creek baffles” him.

Issues with water quality, development, and disturbing native wildlife — like a crab bank at the mouth of the creek — are at the top of his mind.

“There’s a ton going on with the creek that is going to happen any time you populate an area… We have to take care of the creek and let the creek do her thing and we have to manage what we’re doing around that.”

Jamie Huff

Like Huff, Bagwell also worries for the future of Shem Creek.

They fear that without long-term planning, the creek won’t be around for later generations to enjoy.

As they look to the future of Shem Creek, Bagwell says the shrimping industry, restaurants, tourists, boaters, kayakers, and more can co-exist, so long as they all respect Shem Creek.