Conway takes steps to create first-ever manmade Carolina Bay, named it after project’s visionary

Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 6:22 PM EST
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CONWAY, S.C. (WMBF) -- The city of Conway will look to create the first-ever manmade Carolina Bay in hopes of building a more flood-resilient future.

City leaders say former Public Works Director, Kevin Chestnut was the true visionary for this project.

Chestnut retired in 2020 after an ALS diagnosis, but his former coworkers refused to sit back and give up on his vision.

“Not only has Kevin been invaluable for this project he’s one of the greatest city workers Conway ever seen,” said Mayor Barbara Blane-Bellamy.

In 2018 many of the homes in this Conway community sat several feet underwater brought on by Hurricane Florence. Many residents in the area chose to have their property bought out by FEMA leaving the city with very few options to repurpose this nearly eight acres of land.

However, Chestnut saw an opportunity to engineer a manmade Carolina Bay surrounded by natural wetlands capable of storing stormwater to help alleviate flooding from the Crabtree Canal.

“Kevin could always see things other people could not so we’re not just gonna build a stormwater pond with a chain-link fence around it we’re gonna make this something the city can enjoy,” said Deputy City Administrator, Mary Catherine Hyman.

To show their appreciation, the city unveiled a sign, cementing Chestnut’s legacy to this project forever. While he appreciates the honor, he says it was never about him.

“It means a lot after years of flooding in Conway and I always wanted to do more for the residents who were impacted,” said Chestnut.

Residents like April O’Leary. She stayed in Conway and founded Horry County Rising after being flooded out by Hurricane Florence.

“The fact that they’re adding some recreational space where families can come brings a tremendous amount of value back to our community which lost so much and that’s really important,” said O’Leary.

The project is expected to start the engineering phase next year and Chestnut hopes his vision will become a flood resiliency blueprint for more communities.

“To see this actually being done and offer people some help it sure means a lot,” said Chestnut.

Conway was able to secure over $2 million in FEMA grant funding earlier this year to get this project started.

Phase 1 will start next year which is primarily just engineering.

You will start to see more physical construction on what will become “Chestnut Bay” in 2025.