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HILTON HEAD ISLAND -- When Hilton Head Island and Myrtle Beach are compared side by side, it's like watching two brothers that look alike but took starkly divergent paths once they got to college. Maybe one ran for student-body president or spent most of the time in the library while the other kept busy throwing parties or tossing a Frisbee.'
While Hilton Head is known for strict development rules, a lush tree cover and an overall sedate ambiance, Myrtle Beach is famous for theme restaurants, high-rise hotels and amusement rides dotted across the landscape.'
But one of the last vestiges of familial similarities between the municipalities soon may be on the way out.'
The owner of Hilton Head's Waterfun Park has drawn up plans to tear down the 5.6-acre park and surrounding Comfort Inn and replace them with 42 townhouse-style condominiums.'
The idea is in its very preliminary stages and is far from getting any approvals, but representatives for the park's owners met with town staff last week to discuss the proposal and work out any kinks before plans formally are submitted.'
If Silver Spring, Md.-based Sunburst Hospitality Corp., the owner, decides to move forward with the plans, it could mean the end of the 27-year-old South Forest Beach water park that was developed under the watch of Sea Pines founder Charles Fraser and once called "the most sophisticated and aesthetically pleasing water slide ever built anywhere."'
The Comfort Inn is aging and in need of repair, which caused the owners to look at other options for the site, said Andrea Almond, a planner with Wood and Partners who is working on the project.'
"They've been looking at redevelopment plans for a while," she said. "Now, instead of looking at renovating the hotel, they're looking at redeveloping the whole site."'
The owners are considering what to do with the property and are in no rush to move forward with any changes, she said.'
But those changes would be bad news for some patrons who enjoy the different kind of recreation the park's three slides, pool and miniature golf course offer.'
Virginia resident Stacy Sefton was shocked Friday to hear that the park she's taken her two children to every summer for nine years soon might have a date with the bulldozer.'
When she told her 11-year-old son Alex the park might close soon, the still-dripping boy described it with a harsh synonym for "bummer" not suitable for print.'
If the water park goes, commercial family recreation options like those in Myrtle Beach will be reduced to a handful of miniature golf courses.