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Folly Beach Charleston County Park will be closed for the 2012 summer season, but there is still plenty of beach access at Folly — don’t let the county park closure keep you away.

The county beach park is on the west end of Folly Island at 1100 West Ashley Avenue. Its dressing areas, handicap-accessible restrooms, picnic area, grills, rental shelters and boardwalks are normally open year round with seasonal lifeguards, outdoor showers, snack bar and umbrella and chair rentals during the summer.

But the county park suffered a severe hit from Hurricane Irene in 2011, and a large part of the beach has been washed away. The situation has not improved since the storm despite several dump-truck loads of sand to help replenish the dunes after Irene, and federal funds for beach re-nourishment will not be available until 2013. The beach basically disappears at high tide, and the parking lot floods, creating an unsafe situation for visitors.

Despite the damage to the county park, Folly Beach still has plenty of areas for swimming and sunbathing — the park was just a small part of the shoreline. The east end of the island is fine. From Center Avenue, take a left onto East Arctic Avenue (it’s a one-way street). There is parking with boardwalk beach access all along East Arctic at Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh (no parking, public beach access only), Eight (public beach access only), Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth (public beach access only) Streets East. East Arctic dead-ends around here, and you’ll have to hop on Twelfth Street and take a quick right onto East Ashley Avenue to get to the famed Wash Out surf spot and other public parking.

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Before you reach the Wash Out, there is public beach access around 1349 East Ashley Avenue. There is also parking all along the road at the Wash Out up to about Fort Road; the favorite Folly Beach surfing spot also has portable bathrooms. Past the Wash Out, five public parking and beach access areas can be found: around 1585 East Ashley Avenue, around 1639 East Ashley, at Ocean Street, near 1694 East Ashley and at Summer Place. After Summer Place, East Ashley Avenue closes to vehicular traffic, but it can be walked to the end for a view of the Morris Island Light.

All parking areas have pay boxes and cost around $1 per hour. Be careful to park only in designated parking areas, as parking is enforced and violation tickets are not cheap! The county park closure is disappointing, but Folly Beach has plenty of alternatives for sun, sand and surfing. Just bring along your own umbrellas and chairs, as rentals will not be available during the 2012 summer season. You’ll also want to bring your own snacks or stock up at Bert’s Market, which carries a little bit of everything from boiled peanuts to sunglasses!