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Donation provides park with unique wetland

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Waccamaw Neck will soon have one of the only parks in the state with a Carolina bay on the grounds.

A 36-acre tract Georgetown County officials looked at while buying land for recreation facilities in Litchfield earlier this year is being donated to the county by David Gundling and Guerry Green. The deed will be transferred to the county on Dec. 31.

The property is part of the Cypress Pond tract and is contiguous to 80 acres between Petigru Drive and the dirt portion of Parkersville Road where the county plans to build a park next year.

The bay will be an appealing and interesting addition to the park said, Beth Goodale, the county’s recreation director.

“It will be a great enhancement to the walking trails we’re planning,” she said. “It’s just very unique. As far as I know, no other park in the state has a Carolina bay right in the middle of their recreation facility.”

Carolina bays are elliptical depressions with raised rims and no obvious inlet or outlet for the water that often ponds there. The bays are rich in biodiversity and are home to a range of plants and wildlife, including wood storks, herons, egrets, and other migratory waterfowl.

The area is sure to be a great resource for bird watching and other “passive recreational opportunities,” Goodale said.

“It remains to be seen what all we can do with it, but I see the potential for a beautiful natural area,” she said.

That potential had county officials interested in the property early on, but with limited funds, they opted to focus resources on buying land where ballfields and other needed recreational facilities could be constructed. However, the bay property remained on the county’s radar.

“I think this is going to be a really neat part of the project,” Goodale said. “It’s a wonderful thing, too, to know nothing will be built in there. It’s great for the park and its neighbors.”

Rick and Sue Myers certainly think so. Their home on Red Maple Drive borders the bay property.

“The only reason I bought this property is because of the bay and the fact that it looked like a wetlands that would be preserved,” Rick said. “All my life, every piece of property I buy, someone comes along and puts houses on it or roads, so I was hoping this would stay in its natural state.”

He said the county and the donors deserve “three cheers” for efforts to preserve the property.

“Anything we can preserve for future generations is a good thing,” Rick said. If people don’t make the effort to protect the area’s resources, “generations to come in this area are not going to know what wetlands actually look like unless they go to Brookgreen or Huntington Beach.”

The bay property is attached to a lot that became the subject of a lawsuit filed by the Georgetown County Women League of Voters after .19 acres of wetlands in Litchfield were filled in 2006.

The case is under appeal, said Amy Armstrong, an attorney for the League.

The Myerses are members of the League and Sue testified in that suit, specifically mentioning “a number of unusual and fairly rare birds” that made the disturbed area near the bay their home.

Goodale said the plants and wildlife that make their home in and around the bay will provide a wealth of environmental education opportunities.

She wants to have informational placards about species that live on the grounds placed throughout the park, she said.

Development of recreational facilities is on hold while the county selects a planning firm to work out the placement of facilities.

A recommendation on a firm is expected to go to County Council in January.

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