When people think about the historic McLeod Plantation on James Island, the sprawling main house or striking row of former slave quarters usually come to mind.

But the 37-acre site also has waterfront access on the Wappoo Creek, across Country Club Drive from the main plantation site.

The Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission, which owns the site, soon will make improvements to the waterfront, including building an open-air pavilion, which it will rent to the public, an observation deck, a parking lot and walking paths. It will do that, in part, with a $250,000 grant from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The PRC was one of several local groups that received DHEC grants to enhance coastal access. Other groups in the Charleston area are Charleston County, the towns of Mount Pleasant and Sullivan’s Island, and the city of Folly Beach. Each group must come up with a 100 percent financial match from other sources.

Cynthia Montague, the PRC’s assistant director of capital projects, said the grant would enable the commission to give the public access to the water. The public has no access to the property now, except for some scheduled tours, but it will in the future, she said. “We may not have been able to spend money on this in the first phase,” she said.

The commission is developing a master plan for the entire McLeod property, which should be completed in the next few months, Montague said.

Penny Westerfelhaus, who manages the DHEC grant, said the PRC likely will match that grant with other grant funds. But if it can’t land enough grant money, the commission will contribute to the match.

The PRC purchased McLeod from the Historic Charleston Foundation in 2010. It has since been working to stabilize the property’s fragile structures and to prepare the site for public use.

McLeod has a diverse history, which includes turns as a working cotton plantation, a wartime hospital, a freedman’s bureau and a more contemporary farm.

When the waterfront improvements are complete, Montague said, the view from the main house down to the water will be much like it was when McLeod was a working plantation.

Other local groups also plan to improve coastal access with assistance from DHEC grants.

Charleston County still is waiting to learn how much it will be awarded to improve creek access along S.C. Highway 174 on the road to Edisto Beach, said project manager Molli LeMin. But the county tentatively plans to build a landing pad for canoes and kayaks, a pier for fishing and crabbing, and to improve parking.

The town of Mount Pleasant landed a $9,500 grant to cover half the cost of creating and placing 10 interpretive “rail signs” along the water in Shem Creek Park, said Kevin Mitchell an engineer for the town. The town already has the match money, he said.

The signs will highlight the history of the creek and the shrimping industry, and the ecology of the coastal environment. The grant made it possible to increase the numbers of signs by 100 percent, Mitchell said.

The town of Sullivan’s Island landed a $30,000 grant to build and extend boardwalks, said administrator Andy Benke. It is working on finding matching funds. Sand is building up on the island, Benke said. The island’s current boardwalks were built 20 to 30 years ago and can, in places, be 200 feet from the beach, he said.

The city of Folly Beach received $29,000 to renovate East Ashley public restrooms and showers, and to make them more accessible to the handicapped, said administrator Toni Connor-Rooks. The city already has matching funds set aside.

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.