. - MURRELLS INLET, SC (WMBF) - There is nothing left of the nature center at Huntington Beach State Park except rubble and warnings not to get near it, but someday it will be rebuilt.
A lightning strike destroyed the center and the life inside it in the middle of the night on July 20, and the remains of the building still sit crumbled by a boardwalk that now leads to nowhere. The smell of smoke from the fire continues to linger in the air.
The loss was a blow to the park and staff.
"People who worked in the nature center and cared for the animals had more of a connection to them," said Brenda Magors, the manager of Huntington Beach State Park. "And it was really sad, it is really sad. And for some people, it's still really sad."
The loss is just as sad for many who make annual visits to the park, as well as the community.
"The focus that we're trying to do is move forward," Majors said. "And so using that energy, that negative sad energy, to move forward."
All of the elements people loved about the old nature center will be in the new one.
"I don't have the details or specifics on a new nature center," Magors said. "But the new nature center will focus on the same environments that Huntington had to offer at the old nature center. So you have the maritime forest, the ocean, the salt marsh and all of these locations and environments will be interpreted in the new building.
There is no timeline on when it will be built, as it is still very early. Donations will help the timeline along and those can be made to Friends of Huntington Beach State Park.
"Every dollar that is donated to the Friends of Huntington Beach State Park will go directly to not only rebuilding the nature center, but to the exhibits and educational material that will be in the new education center," Magors said.
There will be many fundraisers planned for the future as well, and two will be in August and September. A benefit motorcycle ride and poker run will be on Sept. 18.
Additionally, a Paint and Unwind session on Aug. 30 will be a unique way to remember the animals inside the nature center. The painting will be of a terrapin that called the center home before it burned.
"It's painted from a photograph that one of our employees took just during their work day of it just being there and being cute," Magors said of the painting. "So, the photo, I sent it to Paint and Unwind, and they created a painting of the terrapin that was in the nature center. So it's really a custom piece of work. So you can register for the class and the artist will walk you through step by step how to make the painting."
Since the fire, people stop and ask about what happened there or even stop by to see it daily, to remember the place where so many memories were made with the sting rays, the terrapins, fish, alligators and snakes.
"That's what makes it so emotional to lose the nature center," Magors said. "But the park is still here, the resources are still here, there's so many beautiful things they can do and make memories."
Those memories, though, will be rebuilt eventually.
"I think the fire has taught us how important nature-based, resource-based education is," Magors said. "Because the fire was hard. And once we got over the initial shock and started to focus on what to do next, I think was a real realization that the programming we did out of the nature center was focused on resources. So the beach is still here, and there's still people in the campground, and we have people coming every day, and they want to be educated."