Horry County sprucing up the gateways to the Grand Strand

Horry County received permits Friday from the South Carolina Department of Transportation to allow beautification work to begin on some of the major entrances to the Grand Strand.

The intent of the project is to make the gateways to the area more attractive and inviting, primarily to visitors.

Right now, the drive into Myrtle Beach on U.S. Highway 501 looks pretty blah. There's brown grass and weeds, with some litter strewn about.

Some locals say the road could use a good sprucing up.

"It needs to be beautiful for when people come, travelers come and see the pretty flowers for the summertime and everything," said Ceann Spivey of Myrtle Beach.

County officials would agree. The county is chopping down some of the old Bradford pear trees that have lined the highway for years and will be replacing them with palm trees, ornamental grasses and other plantings on the highway medians and shoulders.

Similar improvements are planned for the Highway 17 entrance to Garden City Beach.

The idea for the project came from the "Soul of the Community" survey of county residents from a few years ago.

"In those discussions, highway beautification came up as something the county should consider," said Horry County Planning Director Janet Carter.

It's not just the county. North Myrtle Beach is dressing up some of its ocean front street ends with new trees, parking spaces and other additions.

The city's spokesman says being a tourism destination is sort of like being a single person.

"You're always available for that first date and a continuing date, so you have to look good, you have to offer functional amenities that people need on the ocean front," said Pat Dowling.

Carter says beautifying the gateways to Myrtle Beach isn't just about making the community more inviting to visitors. It's also about making the people who already live in the community feel better about their home.

"It is because we want people in Horry County to have pride in the place they live. We want them to feel like this is an attractive place to live and work and play."

Carter added that the highway beautification is just getting started, but much of it should be done by the start of the tourist season.