Created by the General Assembly in 1967, the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism (SCPRT) is charged with promoting tourism in the state, operating a system of state parks, and assisting local governments in the development of recreational facilities and programs. Initially governed by a twelve- member commission, SCPRT in the early twenty-first century was a cabinet-level agency with a director appointed by the governor. As of 2002 the agency oversaw forty-six state parks, nine state welcome centers, the South Carolina Heritage Corridor discovery centers, and a wide variety of tourism, economic development, and recreation programs.
The establishment of SCPRT coincided with the dramatic expansion of South Carolina’s tourism industry that occurred in the 1970s. Travelers to the state more than doubled, increasing from approximately eleven million in 1966 to twenty-two million in 1974. Tourism quickly became one of the state’s leading areas of economic growth, providing an economic impact equivalent to more than eight percent of South Carolina’s gross state product in 2002. SCPRT helped to support this growth through a variety of tourism promotion programs, which ranged from technical assistance for private industry and local governments to the operation of a system of state welcome centers.
SCPRT has supported recreational development in South Carolina through its management of the state park system, as well as through planning, technical assistance, and grant programs. It is responsible for preparing and coordinating the State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), which has been updated every five years since 1965. The agency also oversees the distribution of grants from the Recreation Land Trust Fund, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the Park and Recreation Development Program for the planning, acquisition, and development of local recreation facilities.
South Carolina. Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism. South Carolina Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, 2002. Columbia: South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, 2002.