SOCASTEE — You probably don’t expect to stumble upon a campground aiming to catch tourists tucked behind two schools away from the heart of the Grand Strand’s tourism hub.
But nestled on 34 acres, just a bit down River Road and past Socastee Elementary and Socastee High School, a new camping resort has opened along the Intracoastal Waterway aiming to cater to those who want a camping experience with amenities such as a pool, a concession area and store, but don’t want to be in the hustle and bustle of the beachfront.
“People are looking for something different, and that’s what we hope to offer,” said Kenneth Hucks, whose family owns the new Cypress Camping Resort and is a part owner in Apache Family Campground off Kings Road, where he gave up his role as president in May to focus on the new campground.
Cypress Camping Resort, which has 101 pull-through sites and cabins, had its grand opening over the weekend, though some campers have been trickling in since late April. The complex, a product of a change in development plans after the economic downturn, has been in the works since late 2009. It had faced objections from neighbors and challenges in securing financing because of the financial meltdown before opening, which came a year later than originally planned.
“I almost threw in the towel,” Kenneth Hucks said. “A lot of prayers, a lot of struggle, a lot of faith.”
The campground, which was half full for its grand opening weekend, is opening just in time for the busy summer season and aims to fill a niche by making the most of its waterway location, with a private boat ramp and dock, but provides shuttles to the beach, theaters, shopping complexes and some attractions. Sites cost $54 and $58 a night during the summer, and the complex also offers bunkhouses for groups; a two-acre pond for fishing, paddle boating and other water activities and a multipurpose building for activities including Sunday ministry and Wednesday gospel nights -- an important part of the Hucks’ life that is entwined in the campground.
“That’s what it is all about,” Kenneth Hucks said. “That’s why we are here.
“God has been a good friend of mine, and I want people to know it. The blessing I’ve gotten, I want to give back.”
His faith through a difficult time led to the campground idea, he said. The economy had tanked and forced him to scrap plans for a condo development on the family-owned land, which had housed the Cypress Mobile Home Park for 28 years until the family closed it in 2006. The vision for the campground came to him nearly three years ago while driving back from Duke University medical center in Durham, N.C., where he had several months of chemotherapy and radiation for tongue cancer. The treatments worked, and Kenneth Hucks is now cancer-free.
“What came out of it was a vision of this campground,” said Laura Hucks, Kenneth Hucks’ wife. “It’s one of those miracle things. Things like that make you rethink life and purpose and meaning.”
Turning that vision into realty wasn’t an easy road. The Hucks had to rezone the land through Horry County and get approval for it as a planned development district. Some neighbors objected, saying they were concerned about increased traffic, noise and smoke from bonfires. Horry County initially approved the plan in 2010, but construction on the $2 million campground didn’t start until January.
Several residents along the waterway on River Road, who didn’t want their names published, said Monday they hadn’t had major problems from the campground during its first weekend, but they couldn’t say what effect it will have on them until it’s been open a bit longer. They also said the campground had done things aiming to ease their concerns, including installing a fence, constructing the maintenance building on the other side of the campground property away from their houses where it originally was planned to be built and installing shrubs and trees.
“I think they are pleasantly surprised,” Laura Hucks said. “Now that we are here, that unknown is more what they were concerned with.”
The nearby Socastee schools aren’t concerned about traffic or other issues from their new neighbor, Horry County Schools spokeswoman Teal Britton said. The campground’s busy season is during the summer when school is out, and it plans to tell guests during the school year to avoid the times when students are arriving in the morning and leaving in the afternoon, Kenneth Hucks said.
Cypress officials are trying to get the word out about the new campground through social media such as Facebook, on billboards and by attending camping trade shows in the Carolinas, said Heather Hucks Johnson, part of the family who owns and operates the campground.
It joins an already busy lineup of campground options along the Grand Strand, including mega, oceanfront parks such as Ocean Lakes Family Campground, PirateLand Camping Resort and Lakewood Camping Resort and smaller ones including Myrtle Beach KOA. Cypress aims to catch campers looking for a nature-inspired camping experience, as well as lure some of the thousands of campers headed down S.C. 544 to the larger oceanfront campgrounds every week.
“I just need to snag 2 percent of them,” Kenneth Hucks said. “For the first season, we are just hoping to get some of their overflow.”
When Ocean Lakes Family Campground is full, it routinely refers campers looking for a place to stay to other area campgrounds, spokeswoman Barb Krumm said, adding that Ocean Lakes has no intention of giving up its booked guests to the new campground.
“We certainly understand he would like some of our customers, but we really don’t want to hand him any of our guests,” she said.
Cypress already has become a go-to getaway spot for Larry Barnhill of Galivants Ferry, who checked out Monday morning after a weekend stay and has booked most of July there. Barnhill, who learned about the campground after his wife saw a billboard, likes the waterway location - he’s a boater - and it allows him to get away without having to drive too far, he said.
“This is just beautiful,” Barnhill said. “It’s just a different environment.”
Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at email@example.com or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_dawnbryant.