Friday, June 14, 2013
Murrells Inlet has grown up.
What once was a sleepy fishing village and the departure point for headboats today packs an economic wallop.
And for the first time, the strength of that is quantified through a recently completed study for Murrells Inlet 2020, paid for with a grant from the Frances P. Bunnelle Foundation and completed by Coastal Carolina University’s Center for Economic and Community Development.
The findings showed that the salt marsh is a draw for residential real estate, and homes on the marsh itself are worth considerably more than other dwellings in the 29576 ZIP code.
Slightly less than 39 percent of the $112 million in 2012 restaurant sales in the 29576 ZIP code come from restaurants on or across from the marsh.
Sandra Bundy, a MI2020 board member whose father captained one of the earliest headboats on the marsh, said she recalls the crowds that used to come to the inlet for a day of deep-sea fishing.
“Now,” she said, “there’s only one. And that was before the Jet-Skis and the Marsh
Walk. I think if there’s one thing that really changed the area, it’s the Marsh Walk. But things can’t stay the same.”
That was also, according to the study’s findings, before the Grand Strand and the inlet’s two decades of growth, spurred by retiring baby boomers from northern states.
“A new and growing hospital, new schools and new housing developments have transformed the landscape in just 10 years,” the study’s primary investigators, Robert Salvino and Yoav Wachsman, associate professors of economics at Coastal Carolina University wrote.
That growth has brought increases in sales taxes, hospitality fees and accommodation tax money to Georgetown and Horry counties.
While boaters may no longer rely on the headboats for their fishing, there are more than 2,800 boats registered in the Murrells Inlet/Garden City Beach area, and many of the owners take advantage of the marinas in the area to berth their boats because of easy access to the Atlantic Ocean.
Not everything has been beneficial, however.
Along with growth and development has been increased use of the marsh by tourists and new residents, and increasing demands on overtaxed roadways.
How that plays out is yet to be determined, but the study gives MI2020 a starting point.
By Anita Crone
For The Times