Atalaya comes to life in audio tour

Visitors to Huntington Beach State Park can now hear the voice of the Atalaya home's first resident speaking from beyond the grave thanks to an audio tour the park launched Tuesday.

The tour, which costs $4, tells visitors of the history of Atalaya and includes audio of Anna Hyatt Huntington, an artist and philanthropist who founded Brookgreen Gardens and built Atalaya with her husband, Archer Huntington. The park is named for the couple.

"We don't want folks to come in and see this wonderful facility and leave without knowing the significance," said Chad Prosser, director of the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

The tours are the latest improvement to the park, which opened a rebuilt boardwalk through Mullet Pond earlier this month. Another similar boardwalk will open in the next month.

The park is only the second under PRT to use the audio tours, after Charles Towne Landing in Charleston began using them about three years ago, said Ray Stevens, regional chief of the South Carolina State Park Service. The tour has been so successful, the historic site has ordered an additional 30 headsets, doubling its original number, Stevens said.

PRT spent $32,000 on buying the 20 headsets, developing the script and hiring voice actors to perform it, PRT spokesman Marion Edmonds said. The Smithsonian Institution provided the archived audio of Anna Hyatt Huntington.

The audio tours get the information to visitors without having to hire any new tour guides, said Brenda Magers, the park's manager.

The parks are largely self-supported through fees charged for admission, Prosser said. As the state legislature continues to reduce its funding for PRT, the parks must be as self-reliant as possible, he said, and the tours are less expensive than new staff.

Holly Bertrand of Chesterfield, N.J., visited Atalaya on Tuesday, walking through the stone house with her husband, three children and five in-laws. Under different circumstances, she said she'd like to try the audio tour.

"If we didn't have the kids, the audio would be great because we could take the time," Bertrand said. "With kids you can't really do that. They've seen this room, OK onto the next room."

The audio tour cost is in addition to the $1 admission to Atalaya and the $5 fee to enter Huntington Beach State Park.