Flower box project brings new life to Murrells Inlet walkways

Visitors to the Marshwalk and Jetty View Walk will have more than an inlet view to appreciate, thanks to the continuing efforts of Murrells Inlet 2020 volunteers and an Eagle Scout candidate, who has built new flower boxes to adorn the length of the walkways.

“We are so thrilled to add more beauty to the inlet,” said Jo Bendick, who coordinates the volunteers who have planted and maintained the flowers in the original boxes for the past 10 years. “People adopt each one and get the soil, the plants and take care of it – it’s their baby.”

The first flower boxes were constructed for the Marshwalk in 2004 by Bill Chandler and Joe Chandler after their wives saw planters along a harbor walk and decided the inlet needed them, too, said Sue Sledz, executive director of Murrells Inlet 2020, an organization established to protect the beauty of the inlet. She said the originals had been more than showing their age.

“The boxes have been dying one by one,” Sledz said, “then along came Grant [Smith] in need of a project, and he took it on.”

Smith, 17, is a member of Boy Scout Troop 396 at Belin Memorial United Methodist Church in Murrells Inlet and was looking for a meaningful project that would meet his Eagle Scout requirement for leading a major community service project.

The Waccamaw High School junior said he consulted with Sledz, who suggested the project, which started slowly about a year ago. Smith said he didn’t know a lot about woodworking but was able to pick up the pace in January with the help of Jim Graham, who has a workshop in the area, and some extra time provided by ice storms that kept him out of school.

“Everyone else was complaining, but I was happy,” said Smith, who constructed 16 new boxes that were presented to Sledz and her group at a ceremony Monday at Morse Park.

“A lot of the [original] boxes were falling apart really bad, but I’m excited about these. They have a whole new design with curves and handles, and they look better and are more sturdy.”

The flower boxes are painted dark green, and each bottom panel sits on rails and can be removed if needed. Five have been placed along the Jetty View Walk, which opened in September; the other 11 replace the boxes along the Marshwalk, and all of them feature plaques that either were purchased by donors for $50 each or were placed in recognition of businesses that donated supplies.

Sledz was surprised at the ceremony with a plaque that reads, “Thank you for your service,” on a box that was placed beneath the two palm trees where the Jetty View Walk begins. Smith also donated his remaining funds, about $200, to Murrells Inlet 2020, which Chairman Sean Bond said is expected to be put toward other needs for the project, such as dirt or seeds.

“They look beautiful,” said Bond, as he surveyed the new planters. “They are subtle but great, and we’re proud to support [Smith’s] accomplishment.”

The boxes are tended by a variety of people and groups, from retired florist Carley Vanderkloet, to teacher Laura Burdick and her students at St. James High School, who tend to their box from once a week in spring when the weather is wet to every two days.

“They love being part of the community,” Burdick said, “and people talk to them and ask questions. They are amazed that people will talk to them about flowers.”

Vanderkloet said volunteers have found through trial and error which plants will thrive in the boxes, although it is fun for them each to have their own designs. She said flowers change seasonally, with snapdragons and pansies a favorite for winter, and Bendick said vinca is popular because it is hearty and holds up under sun and the wind.

“But one of our challenges is the birds,” Bendick said. “They’re not always happy we’re messing with their boxes.”

Bendick said the volunteers were anxious to begin planting flowers in their new boxes, with some planning to work on them after the ceremony. She said many of the same people and groups are adopting the new boxes, although she still has a few that are up for grabs.

“There’s a lot of excitement over these,” Bendick said. “It’s very satisfying watching things grow.”