As some are worried about historic preservation elsewhere in the city, Myrtle Beach recognized the Swamp Fox Roller Coaster, in Family Kingdom Amusement Park, as an historic structure Tuesday.
The wooden thrill ride, Councilman Randal Wallace said, is emblematic of Myrtle Beach’s unique history. In fact, it was one of the first amusement rides Wallace ever rode.
“It really is something that made Myrtle Beach kind of unique back in the 1960s when they built it,” Wallace said. “People who say we don’t save our history around here — ours is a little different, compared to, say, Charleston’s.”
The coaster, which opened in 1966, features 2,400 feet of track, a maximum 65-foot drop and a top speed of 50 miles per hour. It sustained significant damage during Hurricane Hugo in the 80s, and then was refurbished after the Ammons family bought the park, then named Grand Strand Amusement Park, in 1992.
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It has been recognized before, when the American Coaster Enthusiasts unveiled a plaque commemorating its history for the 50th anniversary last year.
Donald Sipes, the general manager of Family Kingdom, and Leigh Ammons Meese, the president of the park, said they were glad to see the recognition.
“We want it to continue to be a landmark in Myrtle Beach,” Sipes said.
Sipes said the coaster is ridden around 200,000 times a year.
Some have recently complained that the city does not have a significant mechanism in place to preserve historic buildings, however. Tuesday’s proclamation is ceremonial, and will not have any regulatory authority in terms of ensuring that the Swamp Fox continues to stand, Wallace said.
“I hope that they will always keep it,” he said. “I guess there’s profit motives and all that kind of thing, but I do think that Leigh and her family … they have a pretty good feel for the history of Myrtle Beach because they’re a family that’s been here a long time.”
Wallace has been vocal in suggesting an historic preservation board or group, particularly after some complained that Myrtle Beach does not do enough to protect its history. The city plans to tear down several older storefronts on North Oak Street, Ninth Avenue North and Nance Plaza, on part of the downtown superblock.
The land is slated to become the site of a library and children’s museum.
The city has not taken any action to form a historic board or group since it was discussed at last week’s budget retreat, Wallace said.
“This is kind of a first little thing to commemorate,” he said.
Several other areas of Myrtle Beach have small reminders of the city’s history, such as Warbird Park on Farrow Parkway. The park contains several old fighter aircraft, commemorating a former Air Force base that has now, in part, become The Market Common.
And last summer, the city unveiled a mural on the side of the studio of Jack Thompson, who has photographed Myrtle Beach since the 50s. The mural, showing four figures on the beach, was a reproduction of one of Thompson’s “classic images,” from 1968.
But that structure, mural included, will soon be leveled for Myrtle Beach’s planned library.