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Crossing over

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

To fix a beach walkway, you start by stripping away the old wood: the parts that can no longer stand up to the sun, the salt air and the pounding surf that peels the sand out from under the pilings the way it did during a storm earlier this month. Jesse Sullivan has worked on his share of walkways.

“I’d rather be out here now than in the middle of the summer,” he said, surveying the view from Walkway 62 at the end of Albert Drive in Litchfield Beach. It was one of six walkways in the neighborhood closed by Georgetown County after the storm. Sullivan and an inmate from the Georgetown County jail had already repaired several walkways in Garden City before they reached Litchfield Beach last week.

They started with two walkways that could be repaired quickly. No. 62 was different, perched 14 feet above sand that was packed hard by each high tide that swept up to the jagged face of the sand dune. A row of pilings hung in the air. Sullivan grabbed a railing and pronounced it “wobbly.”

“This board’s been here a long time,” he said.

A set of steps added once to extend the walkway over a dune that no longer exists had to go, too.

Sullivan has worked for Georgetown County a long time. He’s only in the second year of his job with the Department of Facility Services. Before that, he said, “I was riding in the other seat.” An inmate, he explained.

He came to Pawleys Island from Florida in the 1970s. He got married. He lived hard, he said. He lost his driver’s license for 14 years, making it hard to get work.

The inmate he works with, who can’t be named under S.C. Department of Correction rules, is in the last stage of a re-entry training program. It’s helped over 200 inmates get jobs since 2008. None have returned to jail. Sullivan said he’s happy to help.

Two things helped him, Sullivan said: the work and “I gave my life to the Lord.” He worked for a time building ramps for the handicapped. “The county kept asking me to come to work for them,” he said.

So now he rebuilds walkways, finding the weak spots, shoring up the timbers, giving them a new life.

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