THIS WEEK'S TOP STORIES
Litchfield Beach: Sidewalk holds promise for safer route to the beach
By Jackie R. Broach
After years of planning, a pedestrian path along Litchfield Boulevard, at the end of Sportsman Drive, is finally under construction and moving rapidly toward completion.
“I was there for New Year’s weekend and I saw a little bit of what’s been done. As of Friday it looked as though they had poured about a quarter of the sidewalk,” said Kevin Corrigan, president of the Litchfield Beaches Property Owners Association.
Construction started just before the holidays and workers were still busy on Wednesday with the sidewalk and putting in riprap – rocks going down the embankment from the path to the water to help with erosion.
“It’s not far from being finished. It will definitely be done by the end of the month,” said Anna Levy, resident construction engineer at the S.C. Department of Transportation maintenance office in Georgetown. DOT is in charge of the project, which is budgeted at about $90,000.
“There’s really not much to it,” Levy said of the project. Yet for something so straightforward, it has certainly been a long time coming. The Litchfield Beaches Property Owners Association has spent the better part of a decade trying to get something done to improve safety along that area for pedestrians and cyclists.
“We’ve had so many complaints about safety,” Corrigan said. “I don’t think the initial developers ever envisioned more of the foot traffic would be on that side of the street.”
Yet vacationers frequently walk along the canal to reach businesses on Highway 17. It’s also a popular route for people walking to the beach from homes on Sportsman Drive.
The grassy area along the canal, where the path is under construction, was narrow and uneven, leading most to walk instead on the road. But a curve in the road means approaching cars can’t see people on the road as they round the curve, creating an extremely dangerous situation.
A Waccamaw High School student was injured by a car while walking with friends along the shoulder of Litchfield Boulevard in 2010. The car went off the road between Sportsman Drive and the bridge over Clubhouse Creek.
The 5-foot-wide concrete path will go a long way in making the area safer, according to Levy.
“We’re just glad it finally got queued up,” Corrigan said. “It’s really well done. They were very mindful of the wetlands issues. A lot of hard work went into the permit process, and Georgetown County and Paul Battaglino [the county’s capital projects coordinator] did a great job of shepherding it.”
The county was originally supposed to be in charge of the project. After going through a variety of options, including a bridge, and deciding on a walkway that would blend into the streetscape, the association hired an engineering firm to design the path and approved spending $8,750 to match a $35,000 DOT enhancement grant for the project. All the necessary permits had been obtained and the project was ready to go out for bid.
Then new requirements were put in place for projects receiving state highway funds and the county had to turn it over to DOT. The agency started the process over, making improvements that doubled the cost and caused delays. The County Transportation Committee agreed last summer to fund the second half of the cost for the work, allowing the bid process to move ahead.
When the path is complete, “we’re not going to have any hoopla or anything,” Corrigan said. “We’re just thankful it’s going to be done during this low time of the season. It’s a great time of year to get it done. Despite it being delayed for so many years, this will be a complement to the communities of North Litchfield and Litchfield Beach.”