Plan to focus on future of parks
Walk down the trails on the Ashem property with its striking marsh views, grand live oaks and azaleas in full bloom and it's hard to believe you're just steps from the traffic on Old Towne Road in West Ashley.
The 55-acre site of one of Charleston County's future parks, which sits adjacent to the state's Charles Towne Landing, is now open to the public on a limited basis, said Tom O'Rourke, executive director of the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission. It's open for pre-arranged group tours, and people can rent it for events, such as weddings, he said.
The commission recently hired consultant Greentlay Inc. to develop a comprehensive plan for the future of all its parks and facilities, O'Rourke said. The plan will take about 18 months to develop, and the consultant in the next few months will hold public meetings on what the public wants in all of its parks.
The Ashem property is one of five properties the commission plans soon to develop into parks with full public access, O'Rourke said. But none of them will offer such access until after the comprehensive plan is complete.
The other four properties are: the 700-acre Laurel Hill Plantation in Mount Pleasant; the 500-acre Bulow Plantation and the 1,600 acre Long Savannah site near Bees Ferry Road in West Ashley; and the historic 38-acre McLeod Plantation on James Island. All of them also now offer limited public access, he said.
It's important to at least offer limited access to county residents, he said. "It's their land. They paid for it."
When the Ashem property is fully open to the public, it will be like an expansion of the adjacent Charles Towne Landing site, O'Rourke said.
Duane Parrish, director of the state's Parks, Recreation and Tourism department has said the acquisition of the Ashem property provides the opportunity for the state and county to turn the expanded park into something spectacular.
The property, with three houses and two barns, was formerly owned by the late Emily Ravenel Farrow. The Lowcountry Open Land Trust held the property and sold it to the county late last year for $5.1 million -- a deal that had Farrow's blessing.
O'Rourke said the county recently completed an archeological survey of the site, something which hadn't been done previously.
The study revealed buttons, glass, pottery, cemeteries and other evidence of a long history of settlements, he said. That information will be considered in developing the park in the future, he said. "It's an amazing place.'
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491.