More than 120 people got a look at the future of Murrells Inlet on Tuesday during Murrells Inlet 2020’s Chowder Talk, and while they got some good news in terms of the proposed community center and the efforts of the sponsoring organization, they also got a call to arms to further protect the inlet.
Beth Goodale, recreation director for Georgetown County, teamed with Michael Walker of Tych & Walker to unveil the site plans for the new community center to be built on the site of the current building.
Georgetown Councilman Jerry Oakley acknowledged that there had been a delay in plans — “part of it of our own making. We changed our mind twice about the site,” he said, “We love it and we hope you do too.”
“We wanted things to blend, to look they belong in Murrells Inlet,” Goodale said. “We are fortunate to have Michael Walker and Coastal Structures. We now have the conceptual drawings completed and are moving into the development of the construction documents phase.” She said she expects the building to be completed by 2013.
Walker said that the existing building would remain until the new building is completed, and that some of the trees on the site will remain.
He said that on the south side of the plan would offer room to expand.
Current plans call for a large multipurpose room with seating in three different fashions — 250 theater-type seating, 300 for a dinner and 400 for a reception.
Also included is an office area that can be closed off if needed and a small kitchen.
“We’ve looked at as many uses as we could come up with, the focus group could come up with,” Goodale said.
Goodale and Walker noted that the outdoor landscaping and area would allow for outdoor activities, including small gatherings or Scouting, for example.
Murrells Inlet 2020
The second half of the evening was devoted to Murrells Inlet 2020 activities, and Sue Sledz, the executive director, lost little time in reviewing what the organization does, its accomplishments and its plans.
She listed the infrastructure items championed over the years, including the Marsh Walk, acquisition of Morse Park Landing next to the Hot Fish Club, the bike lanes on Business 17, the bike lane bridge on the south end, the community center, the jetty view walk is the new thing and the Business 17 streetscape plan.
She noted the partnership with the coastal Waccamaw Stormwater Educational Consortium as part of the focus on enhancing environmental education, our activity books at restaurants and water monitoring plan.
She also noted that the projects give “people like me who don’t have creekfront property access to the marsh.”
Sledz gave a small show-and-tell, holding up a box with 19 pounds of monofilament fishing line — “thanks to Keith Palmer” — that did not go into the inlet.
On the radar screen are the Jetty View Walk, which includes some private property options that were permitted as part of the project, that will be funded by the property owners whenever they are willing to do it.
She added that the permits from DHEC — the Department of Health and Environmental Control — and the Army Corps of Engineers are in place.
Sledz made a push for help, noting that Highway 17 includes a plan for two bike lanes on either side of the road with two lanes of traffic on the roadway.
What the organization wants to see if one wider bike lane on one side of the road. “When DOT repaves, they are adding two feet of shoulder, but you still have cars passing in the bike lane. On the east side of the road, put the two feet of shoulder and make it a 10-foot multiuse plan. We still have to work with DOT on this,” she said.
“What I’m asking is that when you’re driving down 17, take a look at it,” she asked. “The public review meetings and the public support is what is going to drive DOT,” she said.
She noted that the organization has submitted a grant application to the Bunnelle Foundation to hire Robert Saliero and the folks at Coastal Carolina University to look at doing an economic impact study of Murrells Inlet that would include the economics of dredging.
“We know what the costs are, but we want to see the cost of the benefits. We want to get at the economic impact if we let water quality decline in the salt marsh.”
Finally, and most importantly, she promoted the creation of a watershed based plan as a means to make the organization eligible for funding to fix “whatever problems we many find.”
Sledz noted that in 2011, DHEC said that Murrells Inlet has long been considered the most economically important shellfish producing area along South Carolina’s northern coast, and back in 2005, “we got put on the dreaded 303D list, which is the list of impaired waters.
“We got a water monitoring project going to identify the source of pollutants, including fecal coliform.”
She said the monitoring program has been focused on the most common concerns, soil erosion, overuse of fertilizers and fecal contamination at the eight sites.
In a bit of humor, she showed a picture of a dog defecating near the river, pointing out that “we can control some of this.”
However, she said, the next task is to determine whether the problem is human or animal, especially at four of the sites, as well as to try to determine if there is a problem with the septic systems in the area, particularly from the mobile home parks along Atlantic Avenue.
“We are very focused on the fecal coliform in this plan. Our goals are to preserve the marsh, meet the pollutant loads and reverse the shellfish closures,” she said.
The Waccamaw Council of Governments will lead the plan because of the numerous governmental entities and organizations involved.
By Anita Crone
For The Times
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