While the DeReef Park case works its way through federal court, the bottom line is clear:
Residents who used to have almost an acre of park space to enjoy now have to walk far from their neighborhoods for their children to play in a public park.
It is no consolation to them that in the place of DeReef Park, they now can look at a high-end, dense housing development under construction.
It is, however, some consolation that the National Park Service is paying attention to whether that situation is fair.
And it's difficult to imagine the NPS won't agree that the neighborhood got a raw deal.
The history is this: The city of Charleston purchased DeReef Park in 1981 with a federal grant from the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Ten years later another LWCF grant provided for a gazebo, playground, walkways, landscaping and roadways.
In return for the money, the city agreed to maintain the property, keep its facilities in repair and, most importantly, restrict use of the property to public outdoor recreation forever.
However, the agreement did allow the park's use to be altered if another parcel of land of equal fair market value, usefulness and location were provided in its stead.
So when developers proposed building on the park, the city identified a strip of Concord Park as a replacement.
It is smaller, but more valuable.
It is also 1.2 miles away - too far for little children to walk comfortably. And it requires crossing too many busy streets to feel safe.
A grassroots group called Friends of De-Reef Park filed suit, but it isn't easy battling City Hall.
Then came some good news: The National Park Service, which managed the grant program along with the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, and which agreed to the plan, wants to rethink whether the park mitigation is acceptable.
Heather Templeton, who is active in Friends of DeReef Park, hopes the result will be finding different park space that is actually in the neighborhood and thus accessible by people in the Cannonborough-Elliotborough and Radcliffeborough neighborhoods.
Specifically, the Park Service filed an answer in the court case saying it could find no record of any environmental assessment behind the conversion. It asked the judge to reopen the process for "additional environmental and historical and cultural resource evaluations." The city has said it does not object.
Even if it turns out that every "i" was dotted and every "t" crossed in the process, it's still a legitimate moral question: Is it fair to take away a neighborhood's public park and replace it with one the neighborhood can't use?
Let's hope all involved can agree that it isn't - and do something to make it right.
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