We Must Preserve Coastal Carolina's Highest Sand Dunes
Posted: April 4, 2018
April 4, 2018 -- The Ingram Dunes in North Myrtle Beach are the highest relic dunes on the coast of South Carolina. They rise to 50 ft. above sea level and are covered with old growth maritime forest including live oaks and cedars. They are estimated by state geologists to be between 12,000 and 80,000 years old, and have been used and cherished as an open space by members of the community and the public for over 70 years. Indeed, Ingram Dunes are one of the last remaining undisturbed natural areas in the city.
Alas, the land is privately owned, surrounded by development and in jeopardy of being clearcut and razed for more development. Mike Wooten's DDC Engineering firm has been hired by the developer to move ahead with construction and they are chomping at the bit to cut down all the trees in one fell swoop to maximize profit on the construction of 31 houses, while obliterating another piece of our natural heritage. We cannot afford to lose such a treasure, but the risk is real and imminent.
The Ingram Dunes are located between Hillside Dr. South and Strand Ave in the heart of North Myrtle Beach and although the Preserve Ingram Dunes' video below speaks volume, we encourage all to visit them to fully grasp the majesty and significance of the last untouched relic dunes system on the SC coast. They host a variety of gorgeous live oaks, simple walking trails, a great horned owl, foxes, and a multitude of other species that call this their home.
Preserve Ingram Dunes has been working to advocate for the permanent protection of this community treasure since 2016. We should all be grateful for their civic leadership and steadfast commitment to this cause.
On March 23, 2018, DHEC published a public notice indicating that Hillside Development, by and through Scott Jackson, has requested stormwater, wastewater and water permits and coastal zone consistency (“CZC”) certification. The developer also needs either an approval from the Planning Commission for the City of North Myrtle Beach for the tree cutting and replacement schedule or a more stringent Board of Zoning Appeals approval for the tree removal. The City and DHEC authorizations are the last regulatory obstacle in the path of development.
On March 29, 2018, the Planning Commission published a public notice indicating that Hillside Development, through its engineers at DDC, asked the Commission to reconsider its vote of “no action” on the tree cutting and replacement. The Commission did not change its mind at the April 3 meeting and bulk clearcutting can only be approved by the Board of Zoning Appeals at this point. In any case, the DHEC permits must be denied given the many inconsistencies with the Coastal Zone Management Act and the Coastal Zone Program. Moreover, a public hearing is in order due to the magnitude of the issues at stake.
The Ingram Dunes are one of the last remaining natural systems and open green spaces in the City of North Myrtle Beach and serve important functions and values such as stormwater filtration, wildlife habitat, storm buffer and recreation. They have a rich geologic and cultural significance not only to residents and visitors, but to all South Carolinians as the highest and oldest publicly-accessible dune system in the state.
You can read our full comment letter on the DHEC permit application below. Coastal Carolina's highest sand dunes should be a state heritage preserve or at least a city park and we are committed to do everything possible to prevent its senseless destruction.
Following the July 6 public hearing on the developer’s request for a state stormwater permit and coastal zone consistency certification for a proposed residential development at Ingram Dunes, DHEC has yet to issue any authorizations. Yet on August 27 the owner began cutting down trees within the right-of-way for the development which is proposed to take place on – and completely destroy – the relic dunes. The project received plat approval because it is consistent with existing zoning. That approval allowed the 50 trees in the right-of-way to be cut, but the DHEC permits are needed before stumps can be removed or the dunes are cleared and graded.
We continue to support the City and the community in their efforts to permanently protect Ingram Dunes. The City of North Myrtle Beach has pledged $500,000 towards their acquisition, as well as applied for Conservation Bank funding; however, the owner’s move to clear the right-of-way signals the urgency of securing sufficient funds to accomplish the ultimate goal of permanent preservation. Meanwhile, we continue to monitor the project closely, hoping that that DHEC will make the right decision and deny the permits, but also standing ready to respond if it does not.
Download available Ingram Dunes_Comment Letter