The man largely responsible for building Little River’s Jim Caudle Reef into the most used artificial reef in South Carolina’s waters has passed away.
North Myrtle Beach resident Ron McManus died at the age of 70 on Feb. 13, 2014 at his home. Arrangements are incomplete and will be announced at a later date.
The reef started out as a little used site, the northernmost among South Carolina’s 40-plus permitted artificial reef sites. From its inception in 1985 until 2000, the site, located 2.7 nautical miles off Little River Inlet, was called the Little River Reef and had little structure on it.
But then McManus took over, establishing the Jim Caudle Reef Foundation which was named in honor of his friend, the late Jim Caudle, a well-known member of the Little River fishing community who passed away in 2000. The reef was soon renamed in Caudle’s honor.
McManus embraced the idea of what a boost to the North Myrtle Beach-Little River economy a thriving near-shore reef for fishing and diving would provide. Thanks to the tireless work of McManus and his surviving wife, Kathy, the Jim Caudle Reef started growing – quickly.
McManus drummed up community support for the foundation and began coordinating the placement of reef material on the permitted reef site, which encompasses a half-mile square area.
The numerous materials placed on the reef included an 80-foot deck barge, cement mixers, a tanker trailer, two 110-foot deck barges, a 110-foot dredge barge named the Orion and numerous concrete reef balls.
Then came the crown jewel of the reef’s material – 35 demilitarized M113 armored personnel carriers from the Vietnam era, provided courtesy of the S.C. National Guard, hit the bottom in 2006.
The same year, the Caudle Reef was named the No. 1 artificial reef in terms of usage off the S.C. coast, according to a survey conducted by College of Charleston for the S.C. DNR.
But McManus wasn’t through. More of the massive personnel carriers were placed on the site – 22 in 2009 and 20 more just six months ago in August, 2013.
In 2010, McManus was awarded an Environmental Awareness Certificate of Excellence by the state of South Carolina after being nominated for the award by Bob Martore, Artificial Reef Coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
“He really was truly instrumental in promoting the reef and developing it,” said Martore. “They promoted it in fishing magazines, things like that, which brought people in who wanted to fish on the site and see it. Once they starting promoting it, people became aware of it. Now it is the most single used reef site we have and definitely due to Ron’s work in promoting it.”
Marc Jordan, President and CEO of the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce, worked alongside McManus on many of the reef projects in the last six years.
Jordan, like so many in the North Myrtle Beach community, has lost more than a business and promotion partner, he has lost a true friend.
“He was just one of the most dedicated, passionate, thoughtful, visionary leaders we had in this community,” said Jordan. “When I got here he was retired from a career, but was as busy as could be. He was probably one of the busiest people you could ever find. He was the kind of guy that didn’t need a lot of attention, wasn’t looking for recognition, he just cared. He put his energy into the things he cared about.”
And, obviously, the Jim Caudle Reef was something McManus cared about deeply.
“He really cared about that reef,” said Jordan. “Nobody has ever single-handedly done what he did. You can’t fathom what (the reef) was when he started and what it is now. No one could ever have imagined what it would become.”
Reef building and the business world aside, McManus was simply a special person in the community.
“Ron was one of those guys you never had to worry about where you stood with him,” said Jordan. “He was your friend, just one of those good, good people. I can say the same thing about Kathy, they were two peas in a pod. She was right there to support all the things Ron did.
“You just don’t come across may people like a Ron McManus in your lifetime.”