052517 Bikeways: Council approves plan, but delays vote on funds
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Extending the bike path along Waverly Road is a top priority in the master plan.

Bikeways: Council approves plan, but delays vote on funds

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A master plan for bike and pedestrian paths was approved by Georgetown County Council this week, but there was no move to increase funds for those projects in the county’s capital improvement plan.

Instead, council members heard from three Georgetown area residents who said too much money is going to projects on the Waccamaw Neck. They focused on $3.4 million allocated in the next phase of the capital plan for baseball and softball fields at Waccamaw Elementary School. “I would think that would be a school district project,” Wesley Gibson told council, noting that the district just won approval for a $165 million bond referendum. “That $3.4 million could be used elsewhere in the community.”

Council Member Austin Beard, who chairs the Land Use and Tourism Committee, asked the council earlier this month to raise the capital plan allocation for bikeways from $500,000 to $1 million by shifting funds from the $1 million set aside to develop camping facilities. He withdrew a motion after Council Member Everett Carolina sought to restore funding to renovate a former elementary school in his district as a community center.

Beard planned to raise the funding issue again this week, but was asked by Council Chairman Johnny Morant to wait until a workshop on the capital plan, which is scheduled for June 1. “That’s the proposal I’m going to offer in the work session,” Beard said after this week’s meeting.

The master plan will allow the county to require developers to install infrastructure if their property includes designated bike routes. It also sets out projects and priorities that will allow the county to seek grants for bikeways. “This is the infrastructure you need in a growing community,” Council Member Steve Goggans said. “It’s not a luxury. It’s not an amenity.”

Steve Williams told the council it was placing recreation over education by not funding the Sampit Community Center that Carolina envisions as a place for youth programs. “I believe it’s a travesty of good leadership,” Williams said. “We are going to speak up.”

Fred Williams, leader of a community group in Georgetown’s West End, called funding for bikeways “the most ludicrous idea I have ever heard.” Citing a recent comment from Beard that there was a greater need for bikeways on the Waccamaw Neck, he asked “who determines the need is greater?”

Carolina questioned whether the southern end of Georgetown County had been considered for a bike route. “I recommend that council take a trip down South Island Road to Estherville,” he said. After Boyd Johnson, the county planning director, pointed out that road is listed in the master plan, the vote to approve the plan was unanimous.

Goggans said afterward he is optimistic that the additional funds for bikeways will be approved. As to the equity of spending, he said the routes included for the southern part of the county and the Plantersville Road scenic route probably cover more miles than the projects on Waccamaw Neck even though they are lower on the priority list.

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