Southeast
Ingram Dunes activist Damien Triouleyre looks onto the property on Thursday, April 4, 2019, in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Ingram Dunes is a 9.4-acre section of maritime forest surrounded by development and one of the last undeveloped areas of the city. Randall Hill/Special to The Post and Courier

As home development looms, activists push to preserve SC town’s last dunes as public park

North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Ingram Dunes is a 9.4-acre section of maritime forest surrounded by development and one of the last undeveloped areas of the city. Since 2016, a group has been working to preserve Ingram Dunes as a passive park and nature preserve.

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH — It’s hard to tell from the outside that there are any actual dunes inside Ingram Dunes.

The property, located between Ninth and Tenth Avenues South near the heart of North Myrtle Beach, is thickly covered with pines, live oaks and wax myrtles along its edges.

But once inside this patch of maritime forest, visitors encounter gradual, upward sandy paths and steep drop-offs, some 25 feet down: It’s a rare, remaining portion of an ancient dune system that once spread along the coast.

Damien Triouleyre , one of the activists who has been trying to stop its development, sometimes refers to a spirit within the land, saying he was “shocked” the first time he felt it.

“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the dunes. The dunes have a power in themselves,” Triouleyre said. “They’re just so magnificent and so unusual.”

Generations of residents in this northern section of the Grand Strand have felt that same power, retreating to the land for a patch of much-needed shade or in some cases as a literal sandbox for childhood games.

But the owner of Ingram Dunes started the process to put 31 homes on the land in late 2016, and since then, Triouleyre and others have taken several tacks to try to protect the land. They have contested environmental permits, a method handicapped by a recent state law limiting the protest period. They’ve appealed directly to the owner. And now they’re trying to raise money for the city to buy the land outright.

Three years later, their fight is still alive in part because of the persistence of Triouleyre and others. The city also has stepped up as the main negotiator with the Ingram family, which has owned the property for decades.

North Myrtle Beach pledged $500,000 to the effort and wrote a grant application that led to $510,000 from the S.C. Conservation Bank.

The owners’ willingness to pause their development process and engage has helped keep conservation hopes alive, North Myrtle Beach spokesman Pat Dowling said.

Protecting Ingram Dunes has never seemed more possible, but there’s still a long road ahead if the land is to become a public park.

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