BALOG COLUMN: Brittlebank is pivotal to expo's success
When Julius Brittlebank left money to the city of Charleston to create a park in his name, he surely never envisioned that it would become home to a Dock Dogs competition, a 5K race and a beer festival, among other things.
The 10-acre park that bears his name opened in 1975. The fishing pier, gazebo and playground were added later.
Though it's been relatively quiet there the past few months, heavy use starts this weekend with the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition. Tents were already sprouting last week. Unfortunately, so were the puddles.
Though SEWE takes place all over town — and this year in even more places than usual, because of the Gaillard renovation/reconstruction — Brittlebank is a key anchor for the three-day festival.
One park, many uses
Many think of Marion Square as the workhorse park. The truth is that Brittlebank is not only larger but gets just as much pressure, partly because it lends itself to more offerings. Marion Square is, after all, landlocked. Brittlebank has not only the green space but also the water access, without which it wouldn't be home to events like the Dragon Boat festival. So, with all those different activities and different groups, it's no surprise it needed some upkeep.
“As with much of our parks, when special events season kicks in ... we have very little time to do maintenance work,” said Jason Kronsberg, the city's deputy director of parks operations.
So, last year, after the events season ended, the city's crews got to work.
“In the lawn areas closer to the playground, we had some pretty large depressions that have occurred over time,” he said. “We top-dressed it with a sand-soil mix and then seeded it to get rid of some of those potholes in the lawn.”
They also did some tree pruning, but the most visible change might be the installation of the bollards on the southeast end, “which will stop all the cars from driving into the park.”
Yes, that's right — no more parking under the trees, which will be tough this weekend and tougher this summer, when the RiverDogs are playing, but will help preserve the park.
Some rain must fall
Pothole crews were scheduled to get out at the end of last week to look at the parking lot, but the rain might have delayed that project.
Kronsberg joked that if you have something that needs rain, you should schedule it for SEWE weekend.
That's probably not fair. It doesn't always rain. A few years ago, it snowed.
As of Monday afternoon, Friday looked dry and sunny. As far as the rest of the weekend, well, it's still early yet. When you build a park on top of a landfill, methane gas production and ground settlement are the two biggest challenges.
“The whole thing has just settled and buckled over the years from so much use,” Kronsberg said.
So, eventually, there will be some more maintenance required.
But it looks pretty good for a 38-year-old park. Check it out for yourself.
Reach Melanie Balog at 937-5565 or email@example.com.