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Carolina Forest group seeks help with maintenance of iconic sign

(WPDE)

It's been standing longer than many Grand Strand residents have lived in South Carolina. But, uncertainty over ownership and responsibility for maintaining the iconic Carolina Forest sign has one group seeking answers.

The ownership isn't unknown. International Paper, which owned more than 7,000 acres in what's now known as Carolina Forest as late as 1997, still owns the sign and the small piece of land it sits on.

But, Betsy Fay, president of Beautify Carolina Forest, says until Hurricane Matthew damaged the sign, company executives forgot it was still theirs.

"No one took care of it. I think DDR's [owner of the Kroger Plaza] was mowing the lawn, but no one was taking care of the plants," Fay recalled.

The global company only owns two small lots in Horry County today, according to the Horry County GIS.

One is the land the sign sits on and the other is a small sliver of land at the intersection of Renee Drive and Carolina Commercial Drive.

After International Paper left the area, Fay said Carolina Forest Property Owners Association (POA) maintained the sign, funded by HOAs in the area.

"The problem was the HOAs were not all giving their fair share," Fay explained. "And, so, the money kind of dried up."

Fay and her group took up the maintenance of the sign, and have continued every few weeks for the past three years.

But, she said they rely on a small number of grants and donations to keep up their work, and on other projects in the area. Neither International Paper or HOA's regularly fund the upkeep.

Horry County Planning and Zoning head Janet Carter said International Paper almost sold the sign at the beginning of the year, but the deal fell through at the last minute.

She said county governments normally don't purchase community signs, but said if the question came up it would be up to County Council.

Fay said she wants International Paper to begin helping maintain the sign, or sell it to someone who would, such as a new Carolina Forest POA or a nearby commercial property owner.

ABC15 has reached out to International Paper for comment. A company spokesman said he would work on getting answers to our questions, including why the sign was not a part of a previous land sale, but it would take a few days to respond.

The DDR office was closed by the time we called Thursday afternoon.

If you are interested in helping maintain the Carolina Forest sign, you can contact Beautify Carolina Forest here.

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