by Sam Spence
James Island resident John Cecil says frequent bike rides along the West Ashley Greenway inspired him to put together a 30-minute documentary chronicling the controversy that continues to swirl around the proposed extension of the I-526 loop from West Ashley to James Island.
"I was just concerned about the people out there," says Cecil, a 45-year old freelance video editor whose YouTube doc entitled "The Impacted," has gotten more than 840 views since being posted on Friday, June 28. "I think everyone underestimated the impact" of the road, he says, discussing his decision to interview local residents to show where the interstate is planned to be built over existing homes, wetlands, and natural areas in West Ashley, Johns Island, and James Island. Cecil says he initially wasn't planning on conducting interviews, "but I really couldn't believe all the people and special areas in the way" of the half-billion-dollar project, he says.
The half-hour movie, shot and edited by Cecil over four weeks, begins in West Ashley, examining properties and natural features that will be affected by the highway before moving across the Stono River onto Headquarters, Johns, and James Islands. Cecil interviews three homeowners in the area who say they've been kept in the dark about plans for the road and lament its impact on local cultural sites and wildlife habitats in the proposed path of the road.
Cecil, who says he usually works on corporate video projects, says he's gotten positive feedback from local environmental groups and was pleased to see the video posted on Facebook by the Coastal Conservation League as well as the Nix 526 group, which has remained active in the debate over the highway. "I'm not used to it," Cecil said in a follow-up email, "it's nice to do something constructive instead of just bickering with people online."
Cecil says his ultimate goal for the video is multipart: To raise awareness for alternatives to the agreed-to plans for I-526 and issues related to usage of funds from the 2004 half-cent sales tax on the project as well as making people aware of the threat the road presents to "Buy Local" initiatives because of the impact of rural development on nearby sea island farmland triggered by I-526.