Carolina Forest was once part of a larger tract of land in eastern Horry County called the Buist Tract. Originally owned by B&C, International Paper bought the 30,000-acre (121 km²) Buist Tract in 1937. It was used as part of the Conway Bombing and Gunnery Range during World War II. In 1960’s, the company donated part of the tract for what is now Coastal Carolina University (located several miles away from Carolina Forest). In 1989, approximately 9,000 acres (36 km²) north of Carolina Forest were donated to the state to form the Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Trust Preserve.
In June 1994, International Paper sold 125 acres (0.51 km²) of the remaining 21,000 acres (85 km²) of the Buist Tract to Horry County Schools for development of Carolina Forest Elementary School, Carolina Forest Middle School, and Carolina Forest High School. In addition, 350 acres (1.4 km²) were sold to form a golf course and residential property.
By the end of 1994, International Paper began to sell more of its land. Due to the lack of funding from other sources for road infrastructure, the first 1.25 miles (2.01 km) of Carolina Forest Boulevard were completed by November 1995 by International Paper. Further expansions of both Carolina Forest Boulevard and River Oaks Drive (creating an 11-mile (18 km) loop) would open up 11,000 acres (45 km²) to development west of the Intracoastal Waterway.
In December 1997, Horry County voted to freeze zoning rules in an 11 square miles (28 km²) area of Carolina Forest for 20 years in exchange for land to build parks and roads. An estimated 35,000 people would live in the area covered by the agreement.
Carolina Forest Schools
There are six public schools in the Carolina Forest attendance area and all are part of the Horry County School District. During the late 1990’s, three schools were built to accommodate new residents in Carolina Forest. Carolina Forest Elementary School was opened in 1996 on Carolina Forest Boulevard. Carolina Forest Middle School and High School were built on a combined campus in 1997 on Gardner Lacy Road. As of 2006, attendance had effectively doubled at Carolina Forest Elementary and approximately half of the school’s population were being taught in portable classrooms. The middle and high school complex was also approaching its capacity, serving over 1700 students.
To address the growth, Horry County Schools began building three additional schools to serve the attendance area. Carolina Forest Middle was split into two new schools, Ocean Bay Middle and Black Water Middle. Ocean Bay Elementary School and Ocean Bay Middle School, both located on International Drive, were completed in time of Fall 2006 classes. A third school, Black Water Middle School, was built and opened just before end of the 2006-2007 school year. Students of this school continued to meet in the joint middle and high school complex until the school was completed. The middle and high school complex will be renovated exclusively for Carolina Forest High School. The Academy for the Arts, Science, and Technology will also be moving into Carolina Forest and will be located adjacent to Ocean Bay Middle School. Construction of this school began in early 2007 and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2007.
Carolina Forest High School is noteworthy for having one of the highest SAT test scores in the county.
There are many recreational opportunities in the Carolina Forest area. There are two golf courses in Carolina Forest, Man O’ War and The Wizard golf courses. Both are located next to Windsor Green and Waterford Plantation. The River Oaks neighborhood, which borders Carolina Forest, also has several golf courses. Originally in the master plan, Carolina Forest intended to have ten golf courses, but the slight decline of the golf industry in Myrtle Beach has prevented this. Recently, The Wizard golf course was meant to be redeveloped into a multi-family tract but was defeated by the Horry County council in October 2006.
Future recreational areas have been set aside in Carolina Forest. International Paper initially set aside parkland, roadway easements, reserves, and animal corridor land, some of which has not been disturbed and continues to be virgin forestland. Lewis Ocean Bay Preserve, a vast tract of land set aside by the state of South Carolina, borders Carolina Forest and is accessible through International Drive and Highway 90.
Roads & Highways
- Carolina Forest Blvd – the main arterial through Carolina Forest. The six-mile (10 km) road is planned to be widened to a multi-lane, divided highway in the near future. A one-mile (1.6 km) segment near Carolina Forest Plaza and US 501 is five lanes and narrows into two lanes near Carolina Forest High School.
- River Oaks Drive – similar to Carolina Forest Boulevard, River Oaks Boulevard carries traffic as an alternative route to Carolina Forest Boulevard. The road terminates near Towne Centre at International Drive.
- International Drive – one of the original dirt roads, International Drive connects Carolina Forest and the Carolina Bays Parkway (Highway 31) to Highway 90.
- Carolina Bays Parkway, also known as Highway 31 – a six-lane freeway that runs through Carolina Forest. Land was set aside by International Paper when Carolina Forest was developed in 1997; the freeway was built five years later and has a separated-grade interchange at International Drive/Grissom Parkway.