David Schwerd, the county’s director of planning and zoning, said state transportation officials just approved construction plans for the bike path project. He said the county has been waiting to begin work on the paths until the widening of Carolina Forest Boulevard is finished. That project includes constructing eight-foot multi-purpose paths on each side of the boulevard.
“The Carolina Forest project is actually installing the improvements at the intersection of Carolina Forest and River Oaks,” he said. “And so we didn’t want to run the other path and have it torn all up when we build that intersection. So when that intersection is done as part of the Carolina Forest widening, then the other piece will be constructed behind it.”
The Carolina Forest Boulevard widening is projected to be finished by July 22, county spokeswoman Kelly Moore said.
For those who bike The Hulk, the idea of linking the park with Carolina Forest neighborhoods via bike paths makes sense.
“If they connect it, they will come,” said Jeff Forehand, a 67-year-old mountain biker who lives in Myrtle Beach.
Forehand rides The Hulk about three times per week. He said it’s not unusual to see a mixture of locals and tourists navigating the park’s hills.
“This is one of the top trails in the state. It’s amazing,” he said. “I don’t know what I’d do without it.”
Forehand started riding at the age of 45. A friend kept bugging him about trying mountain biking and he finally took his son’s small bike to visit a riding area near Grande Dunes known as “The Pits.”
“I said, ‘Oh, my gosh. This is so much fun,’” he said. “I felt like a kid again.”
He sees the planned bike paths as a good way to bring more kids to the park.
“If kids don’t need a car [to access the park] … that would be phenomenal,” he said. “Because it’s real healthy.”
Bob Trentacosta, 53, often drives from his home in Forestbrook to visit The Hulk. After he started riding at the park, he dropped about 28 pounds in two months.
“I got into mountain biking because of this trail,” he said. “Now I’m on YouTube looking at all the places to go and what to do.”
While he bikes the trails, his fiancée Pam Bowen walks them. Bowen was the one who suggested they visit the park when he wanted to start riding.
“This was the place to come,” she said. “It’s really the only place around here that’s like this.”
Along with the widening of Carolina Forest Boulevard, turn lanes will be installed on River Oaks and infrastructure will be added for a new Publix-anchored shopping center being built at that intersection.
“The [bike path] project will connect the East Coast Greenway coming from Myrtle Beach to the pathways being built on Carolina Forest Boulevard and the pathways constructed on International Drive and tie into the path/sidewalk system constructed in the Towne Center development,” Schwerd said.
The Carolina Forest bike path project will cost about $1.5 million, and about 50% of that amount is federally funded. The work also includes the addition of a bike path on River Oaks from Carolina Forest Boulevard to International Drive and from those paths to The Hulk. As improvements are made to two-lane River Oaks, Schwerd said county officials plan to add bike paths along the road.
That’s encouraging news for Shuford, who lives in the Berkshire Forest neighborhood. After his past experiences on River Oaks, he hates making the trip during heavy traffic.
“I would be grateful,” he said. “There’s plenty of room for it. River Oaks needs to be made into a four-lane [road] anyway. … Traffic out there is getting ridiculous.”