Mary Keller is keeping her fingers crossed.

She and others with permanent houses at PirateLand Family Camping Resort and Lakewood Camping Resort have been speculating with little to no information coming through to ease their worries.

But, Myrtle Beach City Manager John Pedersen said there is a meeting between the city and campgrounds’ shared counsel this week.

What’s causing Keller’s consternation is finding out in March the property she and her husband are leasing is actually owned by Myrtle Beach and leased to the campgrounds. She said she assumed the campground owned the land she is leasing for more than $7,000 annually.

The lease between the city and campgrounds expires on Feb. 15, 2020.

In March, Pedersen told the city council it is a good time to think about future use of the property since the lease expirations are looming. The council authorized him to prepare requests for proposals from anyone interested in the properties.

He said this week that the city decided to pull back on calling for open proposals so the campgrounds’ representatives could have a chance to submit a proposal.

Pedersen stopped short of being specific, but he said the city has received a proposal from the campgrounds and it could include either purchase or lease options.

“We’re open to whatever they want to propose to us,” he said.

Meanwhile Keller and her husband are still planning on moving the last of their belongings to their home on a corner lot at PirateLand. They’ve sold one home in Virginia Beach with the plan to retire on that corner lot.

“I guess we have to expect nothing and prepare for the worst,” the 62-year-old said while talking on the telephone from her Lake Gaston, North Carolina, home. “I wish it weren’t this way. I hope everything works out. It just means a lot of people could lose everything they have. There’re a lot of old people there, older than me, and they could lose everything they have. But, I’d rather know what’s going on than the way it is now.”

Keller is new to the campground lease/ownership, she said. She and her husband decided to lease the property last year partially based on happy memories of having camped there with family decades earlier.

But Maria Stimson has put in more than two decades beneath the shade trees of Lakewood and she’s anxious about what will happen with the negotiations.

Lakewood and PirateLand are located south of the city limits and just south of the Myrtle Beach State Park off South Kings Highway. The two campground properties are adjacent on the east side of the highway.

626campgrounds_JM01.JPG

An Horry County tax map shows the city of Myrtle Beach's property that includes the southern end of PirateLand Family Camping Resort and the northern tip of Lakewood Camping Resort. The city owns about 143 acres of the land including the 12.32-acre lake that straddles the line between the two campgrounds. The city has been leasing the property to the the two campgrounds but the leases are due to expire on Feb. 15, 2020. The PirateLand property is shaded yellow and the Lakewood property is shaded blue. The city's property line is in red.

Stimson’s lot is on 10 Street — the most southern street within the city-owned section of Lakewood. And, she said, her home is on the north side of 10 Street while her neighbors on the south side of the street are not within the city-owned section.

Like Keller, Stimson didn’t know about the city-owned lease arrangement with the campground when she and her husband Daren purchased property there about five years ago.

The couple started camping at Lakewood while they were dating 25 years ago. On May 19, 2000, a Lakewood pastor at the campground wed them. They have made lifelong friends and Daren even rekindled a childhood friendship at the campground. About a decade ago, Stimson said, her husband ran into a woman who knew him from camping there as a child.

Pedersen can empathize with the Stimsons and Kellers.

“I can say we’re working on it,” he said.

The city acquired the land from the federal government after World War II as the government deeded the city 143 acres of surplus property about two miles south of the current city limits. The federal government was divesting itself of surplus land it had acquired for the Air Force Base, said Mark Kruea, the city’s public information director.

The Air Force Base closed in 1993 and the area has been redeveloped into The Market Common district including homes, parks, sports fields, light industry, part of the airport operations and a shopping district.

The 143 acres is divided into five parcels that include the southern end of PirateLand and the northern tip of Lakewood. The five parcels include a 12.32-acre lake that straddles the line between the two campgrounds. The city’s land reaches from Kings Highway to the ocean.

Repeated calls to Lakewood and PirateLand were not returned by the Wednesday afternoon press deadline.

A man at Lakewood did say in March that the city’s chunk of the campground was small in comparison to the rest of the family-owned land.

Carl Perry founded Lakewood in 1961. The campground is operated by the second and third generation of the Perry family. It is located at 5901 South Kings Highway.

PirateLand is located just north at 5401 South Kings Highway.

It was founded in the 1960s. It currently operates on 180 acres, according to the campground’s website.

A posting on the PirateLand website dated March 30, states the lease renewal issues has caused some to be concerned.

“It is true that PirateLand and Lakewood campgrounds lease SOME of their property from the city of Myrtle Beach and that lease is up for renewal,” the website posting states. “It does not mean the campground is closing or is for sale. Those rumors are false. We greatly appreciate all the support and love you all have for this community. We want to be sure the information you are receiving is accurate.

“The lease renewal process has been going on for many years and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. PirateLand Campground has had the same owners since opening in 1966. They say the renewal process is going well.”

The city began leasing the property dating back to the 1980s, Kruea said. He said the current lease dates to 1990 with amendments in 1999 and 2009.

The leases generate about $3 million annually with 75 percent of that going to Horry County based on a 2004 agreement to share the income from leases, Kruea said. The city retains ownership of the property.

Kruea said the 1948 quitclaim deed restricts the use of the property or its proceeds to “...public airport purposes for the use and benefit of the public.”

In 1953 the federal government released the city from the 1948 restrictions but “required that a right-of-flight in and through the airspace over the property be maintained and that the land not be used in any manner that would create a hazard to aircraft at the Myrtle Beach Municipal Airport,” Kruea said.

He said in 1982 the government filed a “disclaimer of ‘all interest’ in the property.”

Janet Morgan is the editor of the Myrtle Beach Herald. Contact her at 843-488-7258 or at janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com.

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