Leslie Balliette doesn’t mind living next to a park. She just wants someone else to take care of it.
Known as Queen’s Cove Park, the site near her home is mostly field and woods. It sits off the frontage road that runs beside the Horry County Bike and Run Park in Carolina Forest. Owned by a Georgia limited liability company, the property is designated for conservation, and it’s mostly empty save for a gravel parking lot and some trails. Yet the unlit area often concerns neighbors, who have found needles and garbage there. They’ve also called police to report gunshots and late-night fireworks.
“I’m sure a lot of it is kids,” said Balliette, who has lived in The Battery on the Waterway for five years. “But I’m tired of coming out and picking up trash.”
That’s why she and other neighbors are encouraged by the possibility of Horry County acquiring the nearly 50 acres for a county park. Over the last year, county officials have received more than 40 calls for service at the site, according to public records. The calls ranged from complaints about suspicious vehicles to reports of vandalism.
“People just abuse it,” neighbor Courtney Coolahan said. “Fourth of July weekend, this family brought their camper. They stayed there for like a week.”
“It sounds like ‘Breaking Bad’ out here,” Balliette added.
The property owner has offered to donate the land to the county, and last week the county’s Parks and Open Space Board voted in favor of that recommendation. The proposal will now go to the planning commission for review and ultimately to county council for a final decision.
County staff said the park could become a unique amenity for Carolina Forest. Picnic shelters, bike trails, outdoor exercise equipment and event a kayak launch have been discussed.
“It can have more than what we did,” said Patty Kennedy, the property manager, adding that the landowner originally wanted to create a nature park as an amenity for a neighboring development. “That’s how the idea started.”
So far, she said about $300,000 worth of infrastructure has been added to the site.
The park sits along the Intracoastal Waterway, but the land donation does not include the docks that were built for the development next door. However, county officials said waterway access could be part of a county-redesigned park.
The site already has a path connection to the bike and run park and there will ultimately be links to other parts of Carolina Forest, said Ashley Cowen, a senior planner with Horry County Government. As this area continues to see residential growth, she said there will be a greater need for park space.
“There are hundreds of units that still need to be developed just in the vicinity of this park,” she said. “So that again speaks to the need for additional park land for the new residents that will be moving to this area.”
Cowen noted the property acquisition is an unusual opportunity for the county, especially for this community.
“There’s really nothing like this here in Carolina Forest,” she said. “This would be a very unique amenity to the people of Carolina Forest.”
For neighbors, just adding lighting and regular upkeep would be a pleasant change, though they are excited about the possibility of better amenities, too.
“There’s all kinds of stuff that would be nice,” Coolahan said. “Right now, it’s just all overgrown and there’s nothing here. They were talking about having a big jungle gym for kids to come play on, like a big giant public playground. That would be awesome.”
Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236