Despite protests, work to remove 50 trees from the Ingram Dunes property began Monday morning.
Owners of the 9.3 acres of North Myrtle Beach dunes, which sits at the corner of Hillside Drive and 10th Avenue South, hope to build 31 single-family homes on the property. But protesters want to keep the land as a nature preserve.
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“This is a day that we were afraid would come, and now it’s here and it’s just absolutely disturbing that they’re destroying this beautiful place,” said Damien Triouleyre, who is heading Ingram Dunes protests. “It’s the last natural place left in North Myrtle Beach. It’s horrible.”
Around 9 a.m. Monday, workers from Leif’s Tree Service began to cut the trees, which were scattered throughout the private property. Protestors gathered along the dunes, but were warned by four police officers that they could not enter the property while work was being done.
Once cutting began, Triouleyre made a move to enter the property, but was stopped by officers.
“They did stop me physically from going back in, they did,” Triouleyre said. “I guess I love this land too much to stop and say ‘oh, it’s inevitable.’ I have to keep, in my heart, protecting this land. It’s all I can do. If I’m worth anything, it’s what I need to do.”
Last Friday, city officials announced the property owners’ intent to remove 51 trees from the property, most of which are pine.
However, a Land Disturbance Permit has not been issued by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, meaning tree cutters can not remove stumps or do any work that would disturb the ground. The permit is issued to regulate the city’s stormwater management system.
DHEC officials said the permit is still under review.
In April, the city announced a $500,000 contribution toward the purchase of the property. Since then, North Myrtle Beach spokesman Pat Dowling said officials have been in negotiations with the owners, but have not yet reached a deal.
The city is pursuing additional funding from the South Carolina Conservation Bank, Dowling said, but it is not sure when the bank’s board will meet next. About $30,000 has been contributed to the purchase of the land from the public, including $10,000 from Horry County Councilman Harold Worley, Dowling told The Sun News last week.
A GoFundMe page has been set up where residents can donate. So far, over $5,000 has been raised out of a $10,000 goal.
“Kids have loved this place, for the past 80 years have played here, it was a safe place,” North Myrtle Beach resident Jane Vernon said. “They didn’t have to be supervised like at the ocean where they might drown. And, so, for 80 years, generations of kids have played here. This is what the City of North Myrtle Beach needs.”
Members of Save Ingram Dunes are asking city officials to purchase the land as soon as possible to save the dunes.
“To the city, please use the emergency funds to purchase the Ingram Dunes,” Vernon said. “Sign the contract, make this stop, preserve something for future generations. You will not regret it.”