Pump up your bike tires, and grab your running shoes.
Murrells Inlet 2020, a not-for-profit volunteer community revitalization group, formally unveiled plans to build a four-mile multipurpose path that will create a vital link for walkers, bikers and runners to travel between the inlet and the Intracoastal Waterway.
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The Inlet to Intracoastal Multipurpose Path, or I2I, will be completed in three phases and will offer area residents and visitors a safe, convenient way to travel by foot or bike. It will connect the Intracoastal Waterway to the U.S. Highway 17 Business at its crossings with Wachesaw Road and Macklen Avenue.
“This project is an investment in the health, wellness and economy of our region,” said Linda Lane, a Murrells Inlet 2020 board member. “We’re extremely excited to begin construction.”
The I2I, a public-private partnership, has received significant funding from Georgetown County and Tidelands Health. The county has approved funding for the first phase of the project, while Tidelands Health will construct the portion of the path that runs along the perimeter of the health system’s properties near Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital.
Construction on the first phase of the project is expected to begin by early 2018. The initial one-mile section will stretch from the MarshWalk across the campus of Tidelands Waccamaw to Wachesaw Park.
“Our health system recently adopted a new mission statement – ‘We help people live better lives through better health,’ ” said Bruce Bailey, president and CEO of Tidelands Health. “Those aren’t just words on a boardroom wall.
That’s a promise to our community – a promise that we’re going to invest not only in treating disease but also in preventing it.
“It’s not enough to keep buying the latest pieces of medical technology to treat heart disease, diabetes and cancer as we watch the rates of hypertension, high cholesterol and obesity in our region continue to climb. We also have a responsibility to invest in wellness and prevention – to stop disease before it starts — and that’s what this partnership with Murrells Inlet 2020 is about.”
Lane said the new path will give community members and visitors another great option for outdoor activity and make it safer to travel by foot and bicycle throughout the area, including to the baseball fields, basketball courts and playground at Wachesaw Park.
Plans to develop the path are the direct result of a 2015 community study that identified the development of new multipurpose paths as a top priority for Murrells Inlet, she said.
Even those who don’t actively use the path will benefit indirectly. A study by Coastal Carolina University’s E. Craig Wall Sr. College of Business estimates the path, once completed, will provide a $1.2 million economic boost to the area. Property values within 500 feet of the I2I are projected to increase by about 5 percent.
In addition, as part of the project, drainage along the path will be improved, reducing standing water, mosquito breeding areas and helping to reduce trash accumulation.
The new path will be built with a five-foot buffer between the path and local roads. In residential areas, it will be constructed along existing rights-of-way.
Jeff Ciuba, a Murrells Inlet 2020 board member, said completion of the remaining two sections of the path is dependent on funding. In addition to the county and Tidelands Health, he said, private donors have played an important role in bringing the project this far. And more donations are needed. Murrells Inlet 2020 is planning to pursue a variety of grants and is actively soliciting private donations.
“We are so grateful to County Administrator Sel Hemingway, to our Georgetown County Council and to Tidelands Health for leading the way,” Ciuba said. “Their support has given us critical momentum for the project to proceed.
“Now, we need other members of our community to join us on this journey. This path will benefit our community for years to come. It is a cause worth supporting.”
Persons interested in learning more about the project can go to http://murrellsinletsc.com/inlet-to-intracoastal.