Before this year, those using the Waccamaw Neck Bikeway took a 2-mile detour through the Litchfield By The Sea neighborhood to reach both halves of the trail.
That’s not the case anymore.
The 16-mile bike trail that starts in Murrells Inlet, passes by Huntington Beach State Park and ends in Pawleys Island is now fully connected.
The detour was easy to get lost in, South Carolina government officials acknowledge. It also created a hazard for bikers in the increasingly high-traffic Myrtle Beach region, Georgetown County spokeswoman Jackie Broach said.
“It could be very dangerous for people who were coming off of those paths onto the roadway and sharing it with vehicles,” Broach said. “We’re really just happy and relieved to finally have that section completed so people don’t have to get off the bike path and they can enjoy cycling safely to our community.”
Finished in January, the North-South Tourism Safety Connector is an update to the decades-old trail, Broach said. The county received a $100,000 grant from S.C. Parks, Recreation and Tourism for the project, which James Coley, Engineering and Capital Projects Planner said was 25 years in the making.
“I have not heard any negative comments about it,” Broach said, “and there are not a whole lot of things in county government I can say that about.”
The county first obtained a grant to construct the new portion of the trail nearly nine years ago. Property owners along the bike trail demanded compensation in exchange for giving the county access to the land the trail now sits on, Georgetown County Council member John Thomas said at the trail’s ribbon cutting on Jan. 15. After years of efforts, including having to temporarily return the grant money to the state parks department, the trail’s construction finished early this year.
The unusually wet winter in the Myrtle Beach region led to even more delays for the project, Coley said in a video the county posted on YouTube.
The connector opened with plenty of time before the height of the summer tourism season. It’s 10-feet wide and 3,145-feet long and follows U.S. Hwy. 17 from Trace Drive to North Boyle Drive.
“More visitors and South Carolinians are looking for opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities than ever before,” South Carolina parks spokeswoman Sam Queen said in an email. ”The completion of this connector helps make the path safer and more accessible for the thousands of visitors who bike, walk or run along the trail every year.”
Previously, Lakeshore Drive in the nearby Litchfield neighborhood was the only way to reach the two sections of the path.
“We were as delighted as people in that neighborhood (and) people who use the trail to see it finally completed, especially during the summers when you have lots of visitors who aren’t necessarily familiar with the neighborhood and don’t really know the trail route,” Broach said.