Beach improvement plans include access for everyone

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Everyone should be able to get on the beach, but not everyone has access, especially those who are physically disabled. Improving our beaches has always been a focus in Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach. Now, grant money from the Department of Health and Environmental Control is allowing beach access to become more of a priority.

With the grant money, the City of North Myrtle Beach has a list of changes.

One is to tear down the bathroom at 4th Avenue North and put up a brand new one. City officials say it is no longer cost-effective to maintain. The city will also replace the dunes walkover ramp right beside it.

Ramps will also be built or re-built in three other locations in the city of North Myrtle Beach: 53rd Avenue North, 2nd Avenue South, and 14th Avenue South.

According to City of North Myrtle Beach Spokesperson Pat Dowling, 45th Avenue South will get a concrete emergency vehicle access path installed west of the dune line, and a wooden ramp east of the dune line.  This will be an improvement from the current, sand emergency vehicle beach access.

When asked how the locations were chosen, Dowling said, the decisions were based on the access points' current conditions and space between them.

"North Myrtle Beach has a robust plan for improving public access, including handicap access to our beach and we accomplish several improvement projects each year," said Dowling. "Maintaining public access to the beach is required as part of the federally funded beach renourishment projects."

Myrtle Beach will use its grant money, from DHEC to replace several dunes walkovers at 9th Avenue North, 29th Avenue North and 27th Avenue South. This will help the city meet its goal to have at least one fully-accessible crossover every half mile.

The city has 395 beach access points, 145 of those are publicly maintained and accessible to the general public.

Taxpayers in the City of Myrtle Beach have been footing the bill to replace dunes crossovers for years, this grant lifts some of that burden.

"It saves our taxpayers the full cost of maintaining and upgrading the public dune crossovers onto the beach," said City spokesperson Mark Kruea. "We've been replacing half a dozen or so dune crossovers each year for the past five or six years.  The last time they were replaced would have been post-Hugo."

This is all part of the overall plan to make sure everyone can get on our beaches, a plan locals say, should be a priority.

"I'm sure there are lots of people out there that have never seen the ocean because they haven't been able to reach it, and I think it'd be a great idea to have some means to get people with disabilities or with physical challenges to get down there and just enjoy the sand, the surf and the sun," said Linda Hill from South Carolina.

These projects in North Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach and Folly Beach cash out to $251,290.

DHEC selects locations based on five criteria set forth in the State Beach Restoration Front and the State Beachfront Management Plan: environmental impact of the project, public recreational benefit, expected useful life of project, protection benefit of project and extent of support for project.

According to a news release from the Department of Health and Environmental Control:

1. The City of North Myrtle Beach: This project will utilize $109,500 in state funds and $125,500 in local match for a project total of $235,000.

2. The City of Myrtle Beach: This project will utilize $89,890 in state funds and $89,890 in local match for a project total of $179,780.

3. The City of Folly Beach: This project will utilize $52,000 in state funds and $52,000 in local match for a project total of $104,000.

WMBF News is still working to learn when construction will start in Myrtle Beach. North Myrtle Beach should start seeing construction next spring. City staff will begin designing the projects later this year.

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