Carolina Forest residents ‘trapped’ by bikefest traffic loop ask council to pull funding

The Black Pearl Cultural Heritage and Bike Festival in Atlantic Beach last month.
The Black Pearl Cultural Heritage and Bike Festival in Atlantic Beach last month. jlee@thesunnews.com

A group of Carolina Forest residents wants Horry County officials to withhold future funding for the Atlantic Beach Bikefest traffic loop because they say it disrupts their lives during Memorial Day weekend.

“We just finished a weekend that we were trapped in, and out of the neighborhoods,” said Rich Malzone, a spokesman for Make Myrtle Beaches, Free, Clean, and Safe.

Using county funding for an event held primarily in Myrtle Beach is a point of contention for the group, which opposes beach parking fees charged to county residents that was adopted last summer by the Myrtle Beach City Council.

Parking is now prohibited on neighborhood streets within the Golden Mile by everyone except property owners there, and county residents must pay $2 an hour to park in the street-end lots. The city council maintains that Myrtle Beach residents pay for parking through car taxes.

The traffic loop that’s in effect during bikefest is intended to keep traffic from entering those neighborhoods, but skirts alongside some Carolina Forest neighborhoods.

“The bike loop’s main purpose is to protect the neighborhoods of the Golden Mile at our neighborhood’s expense,” Malzone said.

“This county council must assure its residents that bike loop 2017 is the last one we have to endure in our neighborhoods,” Malzone said.

Malzone and other members of the group attending the county council meeting Tuesday night praised officials for trying to broker a deal with the Myrtle Beach council to give county residents similar parking privileges enjoyed by city residents.

When that deal fell through, the county council found ways to cut funding to Myrtle Beach.

County officials said no to $200,000 for the new library and children s’ museum on the superblock, and put contingencies on $35,000 in funding to the Chapin Library. In order to get funding, the library would have to provide free library cards to county residents, the same as it does for city dwellers.

“This county council must find a way to convince the city that without the support of the 200,000 county residents, or as as they think of us, the full-time tourists, the city cannot survive,” Malzone said.

As for shutting down the loop, Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said they are not inclined to do so.

“I stand firm that the loop is something that was needed,” Lazarus said after the meeting.

The premise of the loop is to keep the bikers out of all neighborhoods, whether it’s the Golden Mile, Pine Lakes or Little River, Lazarus said.

Without the county’s involvement in the planing and payment of operating the loop, Lazarus suggested the future traffic pattern could resemble what Myrtle Beach originally intended, which was to run it toward Carolina Forest as well as Surfside, Socastee and up S.C. 544.

“We said absolutely no, we’re not going to do that,” Lazarus said.

Lazarus said he was not aware of bikers escaping the loop into Carolina Forest, but if that were the case, he said the county would investigate and correct that situation.

Audrey Hudson: 843-444-1765, @AudreyHudson