Horry County protesters march in Georgetown for International Drive paving

Horry County protesters march in Georgetown for International Drive paving

GEORGETOWN, SC (WMBF) - A group of people living in Horry County protested on the sidewalk outside of the Coastal Conservation League's office in Georgetown for hours Wednesday to say "enough is enough" when it comes to the paving of International Drive.

"We just want to be heard," Felicia Soto said. "We are not going away."

Protesters said they think risk to human life is greater than the toll the paved road could have on the bear population.

"We right now have about a 30 to 40 minute drive for an emergency responder to come to Carolina Forest from Highway 90," Bill Beidleman said. "If International Drive goes through, that becomes 10 minutes."

They said instead of just chanting outside the office in the future, they'd like to actually sit down and talk with the Coastal Conservation League to talk about the issues.

"We want you to meet with us," Soto said. "Mark Lazarus and council have gotten up and they have spoken with us. If anybody had any questions, they were available for answering any questions."

Nancy Cave with the Coastal Conservation League said she'd be willing to talk in person with small groups of people, but she's not going to forget the organization's mission to save wildlife.

"No, I don't think the demonstration is going to persuade me," Cave said. "What it has made me realize is that perhaps we should sit down with the citizens. Both they should learn from us and we should learn from them."

Cave said there is misinformation floating around about the Coastal Conservation League including rumors of payment to the organization to keep them from holding up projects.

"Coastal Conservation League does not partake in illegal activities and we were never paid any money," she said.

Coastal Conservation League is reviewing an offer from Horry County to give negotiation discussions another shot.

"I was pleased with it," Cave said. "I was glad to see that they were reaching out and that even though the last meeting had gone so poorly that they demonstrated that they were still willing to communicate with us."

She said the suggestions the group had made during its previous meetings earlier in the month were mistaken for demands. That included a minimum of one bear passageway instead of three or motion sensors that would alert drivers when an animal is approaching the road.

Horry County had offered an alternative in the first meeting with the Coastal Conservation League. Cave said that involved bear fencing being placed along the road with breaks in the fencing to allow for migration. However, Cave said there's the possibility a bear would go through a break and not be able to find one on the other side of the road.

Negotiations had ended after the second meeting, but they could start again after this offer.

The deadline for an appeal to the administrative law court is Monday because the date falls on a Saturday, Cave said. She's not sure what the organization plans to do right now, but a settlement could always be reached even if an appeal is filed.

The Coastal Conservation League started its own online petition on its website Tuesday, which Cave said has more than 720 signatures.

"Horry County Citizens in Support of Immediate Paving of International Drive" has 662 signatures.

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