KiawahIsland’s Beachwalker Park has made a habit of being named one of America’s bestbeaches. In his annual ranking of best beaches for the summer of 2017 releasedThursday, Stephen Leatherman lists the Charleston County park at No. 10.Beachwalker perennially appears on the list, which is in its 27th year.

Leatherman,a professor at Miami’s Florida International University, uses 50 criteria thatnot only include environmental observations but also visitor-oriented concerns,such as amenities.

“Ilook for kind of a balance between nature and a developed environment,”said Leatherman, whose nickname, “Dr. Beach,” reflects his doctoratein coastal environmental science. “Fourteen million people go to MiamiBeach every year. There’s just too many people there. I think a lot of peopleare looking for more of a getaway.”

Beachwalker is located on thewest end of Kiawah and has ocean frontage, a river view and the only publicbeach access on Kiawah. The park offers not only an unspoiled beach but also awide boardwalk that weaves through live oaks, pines and palmettos. Amenitiesinclude a picnic area, snack bar, restrooms, dressing areas, showers andvarious beach rentals.

The park is operated througha cooperative agreement between Kiawah Development Partners, Charleston CountyCouncil and the county Park and Recreation Commission. Lifeguards are on dutyseasonally along a beachfront designated swimming area.

Beachwalker’s description at drbeach.org:“This is a nature-lovers coast so visitors should bring their canoes andkayaks to paddle through the tidal inlets. It is also fun to walk or bicycledown to Captain Sam’s Inlet to see thousands of birds. The water is not clearhere, but it is clean and provides fantastic seafood for Lowcountry cooking.There is concern about the proposal to build 50 houses and a steel revetment onthe sand spit in terms of its impact on animal life and visitor access.”

Topping the list this year isSiesta Beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast. The sand there is fine, comprised of 99percent pure crushed quartz.

“The sand isoutstanding,” Leatherman said. “Every time I go there, I’ve got totake a bag home with me. It’s almost sacrilegious to walk on it with shoeson.”

By Cleve O’Quinn coquinn@postandcourier.com

The Associated Press

contributed to this report.