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Cherry Grove ranks in top U.S. beaches

A lot of positive media attention has landed on North Myrtle Beach recently, from Cherry Grove being the only Horry County beach in TripAdvisor’s top 25 United States beaches, coming in at 11th, to a number seven “safest city’’ ranking out of nearly 7,600 in the state analyzed by Alarms.com.

The news did not come as a surprise to locals, former residents or tourists who have visited the North Strand and who mentioned the wide beaches and the small-town, family-oriented, safe feeling while visiting.

“Our nine miles of beach is our lifeblood in more ways than one,” said Mayor Marilyn Hatley. “Our beach is at the center of our economy, it brings us relaxation and enjoyment, and it gives us a sense of place and meaning as people that few other locations can. The beach is the primary reason people move here and it is the primary draw for tourists. We are blessed to have it, and we all work hard to maintain it.’’

Becky Cubbage Dukes, a Branchville resident who is a public education administrator who comes to Horry County for seminars, also said, “After living in Myrtle Beach for two years and traveling there annually for family vacations and work meetings, I have been more impressed with properties and the beach in the North Myrtle Beach area.’’

She and her family recently booked a Fall vacation in Cherry Grove “and everything was top-notch from the condo to the grocery store. The weather was beautiful and the beach was clean and well-maintained,’’ she said, adding, “The bypass made travel to that end of the beach so easy, with no traffic slow-downs.’’

Rita James is a Florida resident, and even though 10 of its beaches made the list, she was equally impressed when she was able to book two side-by-side beach houses in Cherry Grove for her mother-in-law’s 70th birthday celebration.

“Great place, indeed,’’’ she said. “The northernmost beach was very wide.’’

Another former area resident, Elaine Veltri of the Upstate, said, “Although I lived on the south end, I did get to NMB on occasion when visiting my cousin who lives off 11th Avenue North and loved hanging out on the beach there. Never seemed to have a problem finding parking and always had the room to spread out our things on the beach because it was just not as crowded as the beaches on the south end.

“And I was pretty pleased I didn’t have to fight the traffic jams to get there,’’ she added.

Susan Harris Smith of Elkins, W.V., also booked an October visit last year with her older parents, cut short by Hurricane Florence but still worth the long trip. “What I really liked was that it was not crowded and the people on the beach were probably our age. … We ate at the House of Blues and it was fantastic … We took sunset photos on the beach and it was also fantastic!”

Cathy Altman, executive director of the North Myrtle Beach Area Historical Museum, who lives in Cherry Grove said that beach “has always represented more of a family beach to me and has more of a ‘community’ feel to it. I’m excited and pleased that Cherry Grove received this ranking. Over the years, I’ve talked with visitors that discovered Cherry Grove and how much they enjoyed it.’’

In the TripAdvisor.com survey, Cherry Grove Beach was remarked as “most likely to not be crowded, best chances of free parking, more shells, lots of beach showers, toilet access and the same great ocean as Myrtle Beach.’’ The only other South Carolina beach, Coligny Beach on Hilton Head Island, came in at 21st.

Also, in February, Alarms.org ranked North Myrtle Beach seventh among the safest cities in the state, out of 7,600, using FBI crime statistics.

The recent rankings were featured in a story and an editorial entitled, “MB Slips while NMB Soars,’’ on MyrtlebeachSC.com. The articles compared the two neighboring tourist cities based on crime, community events, local involvement, taxes, government services and transparency.

Joe McVay Jr. is a Myrtle Beach businessman who commented on the news site, jokingly saying North Strand folks should keep their “best-kept’’ secrets to themselves.

“My family has owned a beach house in Cherry Grove for more than 40 years and we like it just the way it is,’’ McVay said, “We don’t want or need to be ‘Myrtle Beach-ed.’’

Of course, as mayor, Hatley can’t help but not want to only focus praise on Cherry Grove Beach as one of four that comprise city beaches. It would probably be akin to naming a favorite child.

She instead provided some history and perspective saying, “North Myrtle Beach is one city but we were formed from four towns. People who have been coming to our beach for generations still refer to the towns where their families and friends started visiting. That is why you sometimes see Cherry Grove Beach receiving awards or Windy Hill Beach or Crescent Beach and Ocean Drive Beach. It’s all North Myrtle Beach but the affection for specific locations within it remain very strong. Indeed, each town has something of its own culture within the overall North Myrtle Beach culture. That is a good thing; it’s part of the bond that keeps people coming to enjoy our locale.”

City governance was another area that commenters on the web page felt distinguished North Myrtle Beach.

City spokesman Pat Dowling said, “City staff works hard to make our nine miles of beach appreciated. We have crews that clean the beach while most people are sleeping. We have great seasonal, ocean lifeguards to keep people safe, a very effective beach patrol and a quick response to medial emergencies that may occur on the beach.

“Italian Ice and other thirst quenchers are available on the beach as are beach chair and umbrella rentals. When storms or hurricanes hit that erode the beach, city leadership is out there during the weather assessing erosion to the beach and dunes. When the storm or hurricane lifts, City leadership is first in line to contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and others to ensure that sand that is lost is replaced.”

About Melissa Huff Salvatore