Looking back, it’s difficult to recall the community angst that accompanied the closing of the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base in 1993.
Hardly anyone was happy about it.
The closing reportedly meant a loss of 5,100 jobs, abandonment of 1,500 homes, a 15 percent drop in students at local schools, an unemployment rate of 20 percent and an economic loss of $91 million.
What, dear God, would we ever do?
Besides, the base had given us some of our most trustworthy community leaders; many had helped build Myrtle Beach into a tourism and a golf mecca.
And had not the A-10 Warthogs from the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base just played an important role in Desert Storm?
And, hey, what about the golf course? That’s pretty important around here, bud.
Yes, dear God, what ever would we do now?
Well, I’m supposed to be as cynical as the next person – I think it may be taught in journalism schools – but from the beginning I was the eternal optimist on the closing of the air base.
Maybe I was just trying to be the community’s cheerleader, but as a relative newcomer to the Grand Strand, I did not think it was such a bad thing.
I don’t recall all that I wrote – most old columns have not survived the digital age – but I did suggest that those 5,100 jobs, most of them to enlisted military men and women, were low paying and had led to a crop of small, somewhat tacky business establishments around the base.
We love our military, but would we really miss them so much?
And why not use the abandoned base property’s nearly 4,000 acres to build new communities, new office buildings, new shopping malls, new parks?
Something like that.
The words were heresy to a lot of old-timers, I’m sure, though I don’t recall getting much feedback, good or ill.
I think of those days whenever I read about one more wonderful thing happening to that abandoned air base property – as I did the other day.
There is already, of course, the upscale and very successful Market Common and its attending residences, all of them built on the old air base.
And the Air Force golf course, now Whispering Pines, continues to offer locals (and others, of course) an excellent layout at relatively low rates.
Now we learn that the current park near Market Common will be expanded with the addition of a three-mile path for bicycles and walkers, featuring an outdoor reading rooms, bike repair stands and an outdoor classroom.
Isn’t it great to see that we’ve pretty much figured out what to do? Thanks, God.
Contact Bob Bestler at email@example.com.