Carolina Forest community takes median upkeep into its own hands

The Rotary Club of Carolina Forest-Sunrise will assist in the care of the Carolina Forest Boulevard medians, stretching from U.S. 501 to Gateway Drive, the group announced this week.

The announcement comes several months after the Carolina Forest Property Owners Association was dissolved, which was the sole group responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the mile-long stretch of medians.

Horry County had said it would remove the shrubbery and merely bush hog the medians unless a private organization took over, which is why the Rotary club jumped into action.

“We decided as a group to take the medians up because we do have such a sense of pride as a community, and we didn’t want to see something so important to our community to fall by the wayside,” said Kevin Kristick, service chair for the club. “We thought we were a good group to stand up and say ‘We don’t want this to fall.’ ”

The light posts in the medians are currently maintained by the Kroger shopping complex, but said they want other businesses to share the expense, since the center doesn’t even extend halfway down the boulevard, according to Bo Ives, Carolina Forest Civic Association president.

The medians were last touched up Dec. 31, 2013, when the POA was dissolved, until Tobey and Jim Reese, Carolina Forest residents, decided to take matters into their own hands.

“The Reeses spent three days in June, using their own yard tools, to cut the weeds themselves,” Ives said. “I’m so pleased with both the Reeses, coming out with their own equipment, and with the Rotary to make sure there’s going to be a continuation of (the landscaping).”

The Rotary club met last week to discuss taking up the medians for the sake of the community, and unanimously agreed to raise funds toward landscaping and maintenance. They announced the group’s intention to landscape on Monday. Though no donations have been made yet, Kristick said local companies are submitting bids for the job, and it seems about $4,600 is needed to keep the medians clean for the remainder of 2014.

“It’s going to be roughly $385 per week for weekly maintenance and maintaining the trees and shrubs,” Kristick said.

Some area residents and business owners said beautified medians add to the value of the area, especially after all the construction work on U.S. 501 near the Carolina Forest Boulevard intersection earlier this year.

“If the medians look [bad], nobody is going to come here,” said Anna Baldwin, co-owner of Fat Cat Cafe. “It makes a difference, it adds to the aesthetic value of Carolina Forest.”

A pretty median is important for business in a middle- to upper-class neighborhood, according to David Carpenter, husband to Baldwin and co-owner of the cafe.

“If we want to get people to Carolina Forest, we have to make it look like the Grande Dunes,” Carpenter said.

“It’s silly, it’s dumb, but it adds to the value.”

Others, such as Ivina Perez, don’t even notice the median while driving down the boulevard.

“Because I don’t even notice it,” Perez said, “it probably doesn’t have a huge value to the community; it’s just aesthetic.”

Ives thinks the neighborhood’s original planning should have included funding for the vegetation along the boulevard, as well as medians and lights all the way down the road and on River Oaks Drive. The failure to plan, along with a need to sell property, is what drove the medians to eventual disarray.

“The Property Owners Association didn’t have the authority to demand the fees for median upkeep, they only have the ability to collect it, which was the problem,” Ives said. “The reason they put in the vegetative median was a sales gimmick, to get the community started, instead of a plan to keep it all the way through.”

Though the civic association doesn’t have the teeth to create taxes specifically for landscaping, Ives said the group still wants to help maintain the lane barriers somehow. The Rotary’s announcement is a step in the right direction, according to Ives.

“I’m so pleased that they want to stand up and address the problem,” he said.

The Rotary plans to work with area officials to find a long-term solution for the medians, but for now is asking for donations from Carolina Forest residents and businesses. The next few weeks will be filled with local officials and the community discussing long-term solutions and next steps.

“We all benefit from the beautiful appearance on the boulevard, and we just want to keep things looking nice,” Kristick said.

To make a contribution, contact Kristick at 236-7383 or cvmbghunter@yahoo.com. Make checks payable to Carolina Forest Rotary with “median maintenance” in the memo line.