Boating enthusiasts in the North Myrtle Beach area can look forward to saving up to 25 minutes of a drive to launch their boats thanks to a new ramp project slated to be complete next week.
Horry County Councilman Brent Schulz, whose territory includes the area where the new $1.6 million boat launch is being built at Highway 17 Bypass and the S.C. 22 overpass, came up with the idea for the boat ramp and park about four years ago after seeing a similar one in Kentucky.
“It’s really exciting,” Schulz said. “I’m very happy and pleased with the work the county and the contractors have done out there.”
Brent Taylor, director of parks and recreation for Horry County, said the first phase of the project – the 28-foot-wide, two-lane concrete boat ramp – will be ready for up to 50 boaters by July 2.
“We’ve been doing this in phases because obviously with a tough economy, we want to be good stewards of people’s money so we’re very conservative of our spending,” Taylor said. He added the second phase will include a park with play equipment, trails and a pond, which will cost between $1 million and $1.5 million.
A study of boating in a five-county coastal region in South Carolina, which was commissioned in 2007, showed boating has a more than $62 million impact on the Horry County’s economy and accounts for nearly 800 jobs. The study showed boating means more than $10.1 million for the state.
Horry County has nearly 16,000 watercrafts smaller than 25 feet registered with the auditor’s office, according to Deputy Auditor Judy Clardy. There are also 946 vessels registered with the county, Clardy said.
He said the county is working toward having a convenient and clean boat ramp area for locals to enjoy boating. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing.
Taylor said there was a study of a five-county area to look at the economic impact of boating, which was used to support funding from the project. It’s been a joint effort between the county, the state and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make the project a reality. That effort led to 10 boat accesses, worth more than $2.5 million, being approved in Horry County in the last seven years.
Taylor said this location is key for convenience.
“There’s not another public landing between Sea Mountain Highway and Socastee,” he said, adding the Johnny Causey and the T. Craig Campbell landings in Little River and the Socastee Yacht Basin Landing on Peachtree Road were the closest to the new landing. “So we felt like this would be a good place to have a landing for the boat and for the people to go up and down the Intracoastal, they can tie up, visit or eat and then get back on their way.
“We’ve seen people stop, slow down and see what’s going on.”
And it’s that curiosity that makes Taylor feel good about the investment.
“People have stopped by and said, ‘Oh we’re ready to go. We can’t wait. We don’t have to drive here and there,’” he said. “So hopefully it will go over smoothly with the boating community. When that happens, I think it will be a worthwhile project.”
Schulz said locals and tourists alike have been getting hyped up about a local place to dock their personal watercraft as well.
“It just adds another avenue to the beach,” Schulz said. “It’s going to be a first-class facility.”
Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_jrodriguez.