Fireworks are not the only things lighting up the evening skies this month.
Last minute details and finishing touches, including lighting, were recently added to the River Oaks Communities sign on the Waccamaw Boulevard end of River Oaks Drive.
Heading towards Carolina Forest Boulevard, the sign on the left side of the road lets folks know they’re in the River Oaks communities.
“We recently added the word ‘communities’ to the left sign so both the golf courses and the homeowners are all represented in the welcoming to River Oaks,” said Jill Allen, who with her husband Bill, spearheaded the improvements at the entrance.
But the sign on the right side of the road lets folks know the residents in those seven communities care about their neighborhoods.
The Allens, who own J.B. Allen Real Estate on River Oaks Drive, did much of the work of maintaining and beautifying the entrance area themselves, until volunteers got involved.
“For the first six or seven years, I put in shrubs and plants,” octogenarian Bill Allen said. “When I was younger, I hired someone to help me, but now we have a landscaper.”
When the couple moved to Oakmont Village off River Oaks Drive in 1995, River Oaks Drive ended at the River Oaks Golf Course with a gate that closed each night.
Three years later, the road was extended to meet Carolina Forest Boulevard, and in 2007, the River Oaks Drive Association was formed, Jill Allen said. The association was formed, she said, “by a group of homeowner associations and businesses located in the area of River Oaks Golf Plantation who wanted to beautify the area.
“The entrance signs on both sides of River Oaks Drive were mediocre at best, with a smattering of shrubs and flowers.”
The Allens knew when the scheduled widening of River Oaks Drive happened, “the landscaping would be disturbed, and it would be the perfect opportunity to begin a beautification project.”
The couple did exactly that, with donations from the River Oaks HOAs, River Oaks Golf Course, World Tour Golf Course, and the expertise of Troy Martin, owner of Landscape Emergency, a division of Emercorp.
The Allens are now thrilled with how the River Oaks entrance looks, and Martin is also satisfied with the outcome.
“We want people to take a double look, we wanted to do something radical,” the landscaper said. “We got to use our talents and our skills, and I think we pulled it off.”
Drawing from various islands all over the world, Martin said he wanted to create a natural look, giving the appeal of an island, and doing justice to the River Oaks community.
Included in the project are palm trees brought from Florida, Hawaiian coral drift roses, and begonias.
“We started from scratch and everything is new,” Martin said.
“Each year since 2007, communities and businesses have financially contributed to a voluntary fund to plant shrubs, flowers, and to maintain the pond,” Jill Allen said, adding that the fountain was bought several years ago.
In 2016, the pond, which is in front of the larger sign, was seriously eroding near the sign, and it required major work to be done,” she said.
River Oaks Golf Course and World Tour Golf Course paid for a retaining wall in the pond to stabilize the area in front of the sign.
The repainting of the signs on each side of the road led to the decision to have a total rehab of the landscaping, and that’s when Martin was brought in, Jill Allen said.
“His innovative plan has made a dramatic and opulent appearance to our enhanced entrance,” Allen added.
“The entrance is not only a reflection of the community, it’s how people perceive the condos and the homes.”
Bill Allen said he and his wife have been inspired and encouraged by the Beautify Carolina Forest group.
“When you see people like that making that effort, it makes you want to do something too,” he said. “Volunteering is important.”