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Bike the Neck: Old path gets new look from cyclists

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Time and tide wait for no parade.

While the citizens group that developed the Bike the Neck path considers future routes, members are turning their attention to maintenance. And with that, they may try to restore a route along Waverly Road that has existed for about 30 years, well before Bike the Neck.

At Waccamaw Elementary School on Waverly Road, the newest phase of the Bike the Neck path ends in a swath of asphalt 100 inches wide. Across the school driveway, a 54-inch-wide concrete sidewalk begins. The sidewalk was built by the state Department of Transportation in the 1980s. It’s legal to ride a bike on a sidewalk, unless it’s posted otherwise, said Linda Ketron, the founder and chairwoman of Bike the Neck. And many cyclists who follow the new bike path down Kings River Road to Waverly are doing just that.

Riding a bike down the sidewalk is akin to driving the state’s roads. The sections go from smooth, new concrete to bone rattling patches of broken pavement. In some places, the joints between the sections are no longer flush. Tree roots have cracked some. Vehicle traffic has crushed others.

Yet there are portions where the adjoining property owner has kept the path clear and well-manicured. They are an example of what Bike the Neck hopes to promote all along its route from Murrells Inlet through Pawleys Island: Bike path ambassadors.

Although the sidewalk isn’t wide enough for two bikes to pass handlebar-to-handlebar, it provides an alternative to the heavily trafficked road. “A team with tools could clean it up,” Ketron said. “It’s not part of the bike path,” but it leads to the businesses on Highway 17 and can take cyclists across the highway to Pawleys Island via the North Causeway. It would also give impetus to the Bike the Neck goal of connecting its path with the county recreation facilities in Parkersville and Stables Park.

Paul Battaglino, the county’s capital projects coordinator, said he talked with a paving contractor about widening the sidewalk a few years ago. “He said you would need to tear out the concrete and repave it,” Battaglino said. “The practical thing to do would be to remove it.”

There is no funding available to do any work on additional phases of the Bike the Neck route, which is planned to run to the Waccamaw River at Hobcaw Barony. The Bike the Neck committee is looking at several options, including a route between Boyle Drive in North Litchfield and Huntington Beach State Park and another stretch south along Highway 17 from the South Causeway.

Like the sidewalk, portions of the existing Bike the Neck route need maintenance. Ketron and Battaglino are due to meet today with Beth Goodale, the county Parks and Recreation director, about those needs. Bike the Neck wants to help. “If we can’t maintain it, people aren’t going to support the expansion of the path,” Ketron said.

The county has equipment to maintain the path, but it doesn’t have the staff to run it as often as it needs to, she said.

The path through the state park is scenic, but the trees drop leaves and pine needles that make the pavement slick. That’s something volunteers could handle, if they had access to the equipment, Ketron said. “We need to think creatively,” she said.

There are bright spots, though. Some businesses have adopted portions of the path. Ketron hopes Bike the Neck can build on that to recruit others to do the same, including civic groups and property owners associations. As for the sidewalk, “if a serious cleanup job were done, it would be easier to maintain,” Ketron said.

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