How do you like your parkland?
Voters showed wisdom in 2004 when, despite heated opposition, they approved a half-cent sales tax that included $36 million for expansion of the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commissionís property. In the past five years, PRC has doubled its acreage with the acquisition of 12 stunning properties.
Now PRC wants the public to speak again. What should be next?
With the acquisitions, residents in all parts of Charleston County can drive to a park property in 15 minutes or less. They have access to the ocean, boating facilities, historic properties and beautiful places to walk, hike or ride bikes.
For the most part, municipalities provide active park facilities like ball fields and tennis courts. The PRC does provide playground equipment for some rural schools, but the 4,748 acres acquired since 2006 are primarily suited for passive uses.
Julie Hensley, PRC director of planning, said the goal is to prepare a 10-year master plan for the parks, including recreation, open space and trails. The public is being urged to make suggestions through a series of evening workshops at area schools: June 19, West Ashley High; June 20, Wando High; June 21, North Charleston High; July 24, Burke High; July 25, Baptist Hill High; and July 26, St. James-Santee Elementary School.
Residents also will be asked to particpate in a survey. Results will provide helpful information during the community input phase.
And CCPRC staff and commissioners, along with key community leaders in various areas, will participate in focus groups to provide yet another perspective.
With a total of 9,920 acres of park land, county residents can think big ó from wooded property on Two Pines Road near McClellanville to 60.9 acres on Doar Road overlooking Bulls Bay. From 746 acres in the heart of Mount Pleasantís suburban population to 245 acres off Rifle Range Road in Mount Pleasant.
The largest park property is Long Savannah, 1,628 acres west of the Ashley. The smallest is a 0.9-acre site on the beachfront on Folly Beach.
McLeod Plantation adds an important historical site to the park system. Harmony Hall in Meggett and Tea Farm Creek in Ravenel are convenient for the west side of the county. And a 25-acre parcel off Dorchester Road in the historic Ashley River district in North Charleston is being expanded by 12 acres to provide an extra buffer and improved access.
PRC was able to get so much bang for its buck because the recession caused more landowners to offer property for sale, and to do so at lower prices.
In addition, PRC leveraged its half-cent sales tax money by 102 percent with funds from the countyís Rural Greenbelt Program, the PRC debt service fund and other purchasing partners. A 10-year master plan will have to factor in maintenance and operational costs of so much property.
Fortunately, PRC has several facilities, including Palmetto Island and James Island county parks, which bring in money to offset expenses.
People in Charleston County have said that they value green space where they can watch birds, woodlands where they can hike, and beaches where they can swim and fish. PRC has delivered.
Now letís suggest the best ways for PRC to make those properties accessible, and to ensure that they will be enjoyed by generations to come.