Tuesday, April 2, 2013
One of the more fanciful ideas put forward by Mayor Bill Collins during his 2011 campaign was to lure cruise passengers up I-26 to spend some of their tourism dollars here instead of in Charleston.
That idea is becoming less quixotic as a “trolley task force” begins to investigate the possibility of a riding tour of historic Summerville, much like the tours one can take in downtown Charleston.
Summervillian Bobby Sullivan of trolley operator Absolutely Charleston said visitors to Charleston are ready to venture away from the traditional tourism hubs.
Many are repeat visitors and “they still want to come here, but they want to see new things as well,” he said.
People want to return home and tell friends of their “discovery” of a great little town outside of well-known destinations, he said.
Thursday, Sullivan and an Absolutely Charleston trolley took two groups of Chamber members and guests on a one-tour of the historic district, with local historian Barbara Hill imparting some of the history and charm of the town.
The tour was meant to solicit input on tour sites and the very idea of a trolley.
All ideas are on the table as the task force begins its work.
Collins said he wants the task force to consider where the trolley might go – Downtown? To the plantations on S.C. 61? To Beidler Forest? To transport tournament parents downtown from Gahagan Park between games? – as well as how the service could be structured.
He doesn’t envision it as a town service but as private enterprise, he said.
He appointed Tina Zimmerman of the Chamber’s visitor center; Doyle Best, the town’s park and recreation manager; Ashley Chapman, manager of the Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site; Bob Shipley of Firewater Grille; and Perrin Conrad, an author and attorney with travel agency experience, to the task force.
Collins also consulted with Derrick Williams, who has been operating the Lowcountry Loop Trolley for the past seven months.
Williams said his trolley is a hop-on, hop-off service that connects the Charleston Visitor’s Center to Mt. Pleasant hotels, Shem Creek, Sullivan’s Island, the Isle of Palms and Boone Hall Plantation.
Tickets are $15 for adults, and Williams said the service is often used by tourists who’d rather ride than navigate driving and students who want to go to the beach for the day.
More than a mere shuttle service, his trolleys also offer narration explaining the significance of East of the Cooper spots, he said.
Williams said he’d be interested in talking to the task force about offering a trolley service in Summerville.
Thursday’s mock tour started at the Visitor’s Center, proceeded to Hutchinson Square, passed the churches and Timrod Library on Central Avenue, showcased Sumter Avenue, Linwood Lane and the gates of the Pine Forest Inn, then drove through the Tea Farm neighborhood, turned at Five Points and circled around past Azalea Park and back to the Visitor’s Center.
Sullivan said such tours could be compelling to people thinking of moving here or who have recently moved here and want to learn more about the area.
He also thinks Summerville could position itself as a boutique destination.
Visitors will want to see what Summerville has to offer, he said.
“They’re going to want to see Summerville. They’re going to want to see Sumter Avenue,” he said.