CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Hundreds of acres in Conway could soon be bought, but this large section of land off the Waccamaw River isn't expected to be purchased from a developer or be turned into a chain of big box stores, instead it's looking to stay untouched for you and our future guests.
If you stand on the River Walk and take a look over the Waccamaw River, or if you drive across the US-501 bridge, you can see acres of trees and wetlands. That land makes up 490 acres that the Nature Conservancy is trying to preserve. The environmental group works to protect particular parts of land throughout the world. Right now, they're in negotiations with the City of Conway to purchase these acres.
The group feels there are many reasons why they need to jump in. A spokesperson says it's important to protect freshwater forests, like this one, to provide habitat for wildlife and also to secure clean drinking water for local residents.
Mayor Alys Lawson for the City of Conway agrees, saying, you don't get a second chance to take action like this; it needs to be done before it is too late.
"We know that our environment is really one of the things that sets the City of Conway apart, and it has for generations," said Lawson. "We're just glad we can do our part to preserve a little extra for the next generations."
The city said the funding is in place. The Nature Conservancy would not give out the price tag for the cost of the land. They did say, even though they'd be the ones making the purchase, it doesn't mean they will oversee it. They could hand it over to someone else to manage. The organization said it does assist agencies in procuring land, but no concrete plans exist for this land at this time.
Either way, the eventual hope for this land is that it will be protected for public use and the natural benefits it offers, whoever ends up managing it.
The organization and the city hope to use it for more than just habitat protection. They want it to be a place unlike any in our area, somewhere you can potentially enjoy, hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, kayaking tours and river trips. Those are just a few ideas being tossed around.
The city sees it as a way to drive a new kind of tourism to the Grand Strand, "Eco-Tourism."
"We think amenities that the community, particularly even Myrtle Beach visitors, that are looking for a change of pace for the day may come over to Conway to take advantage of," said Lawson. "We also think our citizens can really benefit for the accessibility and the preservation for these areas."
Downtown business owners, including the owner of Consignment on Main, Helene Merhi, say this is a win-win. Merhi says it's a reason to draw visitors to Conway, who could easily become lifers, once they see the city's charm.
The Mayor of Conway also spoke on how this move can help to improve peoples' health who live here in the area. She said when you see the top cities in the nation, listed, they all have miles of hiking, biking and walking trails.
The players involved could not release a timeline, calling it a time-consuming process.