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Highway 17: If it's landscaped, it must be in Litchfield
By Jackie R. Broach
When people see maintenance being done on the medians in Litchfield, there will no longer be any question about who’s behind it.
The Litchfield Corridor Beautification Committee, which started maintaining the medians two years ago through donations and accommodations tax funds, purchased two large road signs that will be put out every Thursday while crews are mowing. The signs make it clear the maintenance is a project of the committee.
“The main purpose is identification of the name and to help people understand that this is not a government-run thing, but a private thing done in cooperation with government,” said Bill McElroy, committee president.
The nonprofit receives $53,000 in accommodations tax money and provides matching funds to maintain the area from Martin Luther King Road to Brookgreen Gardens. It started in 2007 with just the stretch from the south entrance of the Bi-Lo Shopping Center to the Litchfield Country Club entrance, which was once maintained by the Litchfield Co.
Since taking over after the company dissolved, the committee has expanded landscaping to run from Brookgreen to Sandy Island Road and, this fall, plans to begin planting in the medians from Sandy Island Road to Martin Luther King.
The group’s fund-raising efforts have been successful. Its list of donors continues to grow and includes businesses, property owners associations and individuals in and around Litchfield.
But there’s always room for improvement, especially this year, when so many nonprofits have taken a hit due to the economy.
“Donations are good, but there are 10 or 12 people who have been contributors in the past that haven’t paid this year,” McElroy said.
Once the signs go up, McElroy said he hopes that will encourage those folks, plus some new ones, to get out their checkbooks.
“We’re always trying to reach new people,” McElroy said. “In time, we hope to reach enough that we won’t have to apply for A-tax money. I don’t know if that’s possible, but we’d love to see it happen.”
Another objective of the signs, he said, is to let visitors know the community is working “to make this place pretty for them.”
Every time the committee applies for accommodations tax funds, McElroy said they’re asked how they know they’re impacting tourism, the main criteria for receiving the funds.
“The short answer is we don’t know,” McElroy said. “But if you look at the traffic numbers that go through here and the number of people on the beaches, obviously we’re getting people here who were going somewhere else.”
He believes having an area that is well tended and aesthetically appealing has something to do with that.
“Any time I talk to people on the beach, in a restaurant or wherever, they say they’re [in Litchfield] because they like the way it looks,” he said.
McElroy said he also hopes people will be encouraged to give to similar groups once they see what donations to the Litchfield committee have accomplished.
The Pawleys Island Highway Beautification Program will raise money to maintain medians from the South Causeway to Georgetown, beginning with the section from Allston Plantation to the South Causeway. And when the two-way medians north of the causeway are closed, the group may take over care of those, as well.
The group was approved in March to receive $50,000 in accommodations tax dollars for the project and is in the process of raising matching funds.
Plans are to begin planting in the fall.
Murrells Inlet 2020 is also looking to raise money to maintain medians. That group has applied for $210,800 in accommodations tax funds for a $235,800 project that would landscape Bypass 17 from the county line to the oyster landing.
McElroy has been advising both groups and helped put them in contact with Waccamaw Landscaping and Construction, which the committee has contracted to provide maintenance services for its medians. The business also volunteered its services to design the plans for the medians in Litchfield and has offered to do the same for the projects in Pawleys and Murrells Inlet.
“We try to do volunteer work every year and corridor beautification is one of the things we identified,” said Jean Crouch Rothrock, a landscape architect and company owner.
Waccamaw Landscaping would like to be involved with all three projects to help them have a cohesive vision.
“Each area has its own individual character and we appreciate that,” she said, “but we’d like to see some continuity, so the different areas complement each other rather than compete.”