An oasis just south of Myrtle Beach city limits has undergone some major sprucing up from winter through spring, just in time for summer.
Visitors to Myrtle Beach State Park will notice an array of upgrades, starting with the fresh, repaved drive into the park from U.S. 17 Business, one mile south of Ocean Boulevard and Farrow Parkway, across from Seagate Village. Other improvements include fresh stripes denoting parking spaces, and underground and unseen, plumbing and sewer maintenance.
Gerald Ives, manager of the park for a decade as of January, spoke of the long-awaited improvements at this Grand Strand landmark spanning 312 acres, with one mile of beach along the Atlantic. He said in peak season, the park operates with 45-50 employees and 15-20 volunteers. He also estimated that more than $900,000 will be spent on the parkwide road and sewer line improvements – another reminder of how important park admissions and annual state park pass sales are vital to keeping up every treasure of a state park across the Palmetto State.
Question | How long was the planning for the milling and resurfacing of the paved roads parkwide, and how many years had the old avenues lasted?
Answer | The process started about two years ago. ... The biggest challenge for us is we have such a small window of time to do a large project like this where it doesn’t affect a lot of visitors. ... For paving in the winter, the weather has to be just right. ... We knew quite a few years ago that as the asphalt continued to degrade, ... in the last 3-4 years, it’s been pretty wet years, especially in winter, and it all just really started to take its toll on the roads. ... The surfaces on the original roads were probably 30-plus years old. I’ve been in this park about 14 years, ... and that was when we paved the campground roads, and that was huge.
Q. | When did all the upgrades, roads, pipes and all, begin?
A. | November, and the goal was to get as much done as we could this winter, with maybe a second phase for next winter. ... We had to be careful about how big the project would be, because we really can’t pave in April and May, because of the high traffic by then.
Q. | How many miles of roadway span the park?
A. | If you go on every single road, on the north and south ends, front and back, every circle in the campground, it’s about 7 miles.
Q. | How many parking spaces exist parkwide, and has that number fluctuated, amid the angling of spots in certain places?
A. | Roughly about 1,000 spaces, so that stayed about the same. we had to tweak some parking lines. With the angled parking, you actually lose space, so we had a little bit of give and take in some of our area.
Q. | The spaces leading into the turnaround loop on the southernmost end, and the spaces along the road by the picnic shelters parallel to the boardwalk north from the pier, were angled to facilitate one-way traffic loops in those respective zones. What safety factors played into consideration for that slight tweak in traffic patterns?
A. | It’s all about traffic flow. Having that one-way traffic flow makes it easier to get in and get out. It’s also a safety matter for pedestrians, too, instead of having cars coming from both directions.
Q. | How many bumpers – the parking space markers – had to be hauled, then re-set after repaving and striping of spaces?
A. | They’re called parking stops, or parking bumpers, and we had to replace about 110, and estimated we moved about 400.
Q. | What sewer upgrades were made, as noticed by the various washroom clusters?
A. | Most of the sewer work completed is all underground. As long as the toilets flush and sinks drain, people are never going to know. A lot of the infrastructure is original to the park, so we’re talking 80 years here. All of the main sewer lines in the park: We went in and replaced or repaired them. ... We “sleeved” a lot of lines, ... with a resin that is heated, hardening like a rock, and it expands and shields the old pipe. ... Digging up an old sewer line is a huge process, because we also have to navigate old water and electric lines. With the sleeving process, nothing has to be dug up.
Q. | That giant beach wooden chair added along the northern quadrant of the park boardwalk: That ought to be a hot spot for photos, framed by the live oaks, and the three sabal palms in the distance. How was that idea designed and carried out?
A. | Our state parks staff in Columbia collaborated on the chairs for use across the parks. We’re always trying to find ways to promote not only the parks, but to create memories for our visitors. ... People love to take pictures of their experiences at the parks, and we wanted the chairs to be photo opportunities. We put a chair on our pier a year ago, and people love it. With the second chair, we wanted to highlight another area of the park, and that backdrop is what we wanted to capture. ... We hope that such pictures not only will be cherished by family members, but shared with family and friends around the world. ...
I laughed when the chairs were first brought to the park; we had to paint them and fix them up. They were raw wood. When I later sat in one with my daughter; I looked like I was 5 feet tall. I looked like a little munchkin; I’m already short, and I looked really short there.
Q. | Is the park still the leader in park attendance statewide, or maybe a close second to Hunting Island State Park?
A. | Hunting Island and Myrtle Beach state parks are the bookends of the four coastal parks. We are neck and neck. ... What’s more important than anything else is the fact that every year, we see more and more people at our parks. It doesn’t matter which – as long as the visitors keep coming through.
Q. | With such events as “Park Palooza” and “Totally Turtles!” becoming annual traditions, and Ann Malys Wilson’s crew of interpretive rangers and helpers putting on so many nature programs year round, among the family friendly identities associated with Myrtle Beach State Park, what favorite time of year or time of day, and specific nature sightings, have been etched among your memories there?
A. | I absolutely love the fall here – October and November. Spring comes in a close second, with all the flowers blossoming and the grass turning green. Something about the fall days here, it’s just so peaceful and quiet. The sunrises and sunsets at that time of year are spectacular, and I love the cool air. ...
People ask me all the time, “What do you enjoy about your job the most?” ... When I stand here on a Saturday in the summer, and I see thousands of people having a good time, enjoying the beach, as the waves crash into the shore, and picnicking, and having fun – that to me, is a very special moment. ...
Even during Harley week, I still hear the sounds of nature. Just the other day, I was at the tractor shed in back of the park, and out of nowhere, a wood duck with her four little babies walked right past me, right past my truck. ... That’s the cool thing about my job. You get to see those things right here in the middle of it all.
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 843-444-1764.
If you go
WHAT: Myrtle Beach State Park
WHERE: On U.S. 17 Business, along south end of Myrtle Beach city limits, on U.S. 17 Business (South Kings Highway), one mile south of Ocean Boulevard and Farrow Parkway, across from Seagate Village.
OPEN: 6 a.m.-10 p.m. daily
▪ Daily admission $5 for ages 16 and older, $3.25 S.C. seniors, $3 ages 6-15.
▪ State park passes, to access sites across South Carolina, $75 or $99.
NATURE CENTER PROGRAMS: Through June 4, mostly free with park admission, and mostly in nature center, which is open 1-4:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays (843-238-0874) –
▪ “Tale of the Whale,” 2-3 p.m. Tuesdays, covering coastal marine mammals.
▪ “Feeding Time,” 2-2:30 p.m. Wednesdays, to resident animals inside.
▪ “What Dwells in a Shell?” 2-2:45 p.m. Thursdays in May, covering identity and lifestyles of these animals.
▪ “Pier Fishing,” 8-9:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays., covering basics, with poles available to borrow. Bring or buy bait. Preregistration required; $5.
▪ “What Wildlife will A-Pier?” 10 a.m. Fridays, scanning for animals from pier.
▪ “Backyard Bird ID,” 2-2:30 a.m. Fridays in May.
▪ “A Crabby Experience,” 10-11:30 a.m. Saturdays, in catch-and-release program from pier. Trap rental for $5 cash; bring or buy bait
▪ “Urban Sea Turtle,” 2-3 p.m. Sundays, covering challenges to survival.
▪ “Destination Turtle DNA,” 3:30-4:15 p.m. Sundays, for ages 8 and older, covering sea turtles’ nesting.
INFORMATION: 843-238-5325 or www.myrtlebeachsp.com
ALSO: Visit Huntington Beach State Park, on U.S. 17, between Murrells Inlet and Pawleys Island, across from Brookgreen Gardens – 843-237-4440 (park office) 843-235-8755 (nature center) or www.huntingtonbeachsp.com.