Leaders start planning for Bikefest 2016, encourage AB to branch - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Leaders start planning for Bikefest 2016, encourage AB to branch out economically

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Grand Strand leaders are already looking ahead to 2016 Bikefest. They will jump off the successes and weaknesses of the 2015 event to begin the planning process all over again.

Leaders from Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, Horry County, Surfside Beach and Atlantic Beach at the Coastal Alliance meeting Wednesday referred to Bikefest 2015 as "ground zero". They started from scratch to come up with a plan to manage crowds and shut out violence, and now they know the process involved to achieve it. 

Members from Coastal Alliance said communication can be improved - not so much during the planning phase, but during the operational phase when the bikers are in town.

There is, also, the matter of the traffic loop. The community was frustrated by the inconvenience, and leaders heard it. 

"We had a few areas that got a little more congested than anticipated," said Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus. "So we need to look at those areas and talk with the state Highway Patrol and see what their recommendations are so it can flow a little bit better."

One of the big decisions at Wednesday's meeting was a unanimous vote to keep the Bikefest Task Force operating.

Conversation shifted to Atlantic Beach, as the town police chief and town manager were present at the meeting. Grand Strand leaders say Bikefest is the main source of revenue coming into the town of Atlantic Beach every year, but it doesn't have to be. They stress the town has so much heritage, and it's time for a change that will promote that history and give an economic boost.

"What started the Atlantic Beach Bikefest has grown into something that has gone into all of our borders now, and we're having to spend a tremendous amount of resources, money to handle the event that's really not sponsored by anyone," Lazarus said.

The Atlantic Beach town manager, Benjamin Quattlebaum said he is in agreement with county leaders.

No one at the Coastal Alliance meeting mentioned the town getting rid of Bikefest, but instead suggested looking into other ways for it to thrive again.

"Economic development, oceanfront development, some other resources brought into the Atlantic Beach area to where they thrive year-round and don't depend on making payroll, bills and property tax payments on just one event a year," Lazarus prompted.

Quattlebaum, who has served as Atlantic Beach town manager for about six weeks, said the town agrees, "We are already on that same plane, we agree and we are going to be working towards development, economic development as well as other programming activities throughout the year to help." And it has already started preliminary planning.

In 2016, Atlantic Beach will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Quattlebaum said the idea is to not only enhance Bikefest and Memorial Day weekend, but do so by embracing the towns heritage, "Do some other activities leading up to and commemorating the 50th anniversary programs in terms of generate economic development and resources."

The conversation was full of encouragement and all leaders say they want to work together. 

"If everybody's healthy, all boats rise in a rising tide. And we want to help Atlantic Beach do that," Lazarus finished.

Quattlebaum said the town is discussing having commemorative events, bringing in speakers and having symposiums throughout the upcoming year ahead of the anniversary that will bring in a steady flow of cash.

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