MOUNT PLEASANT - With a brilliant sun setting over the Cooper River beyond Memorial Waterfront Park, residents turned out en masse Wednesday to give input on two large quality-of-life projects coming down the town's pike.
At least 100 residents, including many youth soccer players, filled seats, lined walls and overflowed into a hallway at the park's Cooper River Room.
Town officials held the meeting to discuss phase two of the popular waterfront park complex at the base of the old Cooper River bridges along with the future development of 245 acres of undeveloped property off Rifle Range Road.
Residents had a chance to brainstorm about both projects without consideration of cost and then ranked suggestions.
Most spoke about the Rifle Range Road recreation land, just north of Six Mile Road, where a multiuse sports complex, especially rectangular fields for soccer and lacrosse, received by far the most support. Green space and trails for walking, biking and running ranked next. A combination of the two also ranked high.
Matt Job, executive director of the South Carolina United Mount Pleasant soccer club, proposed a complex of 16 to 21 rectangular fields for soccer, lacrosse and other sports that could draw regional tournaments comparable to those his teams recently attended in Louisiana that generated $7 million for that state's economy.
He noted that SCUMP has boomed to nearly 1,000 members today and will push 2,000 in a few years, but local fields have not kept pace with the explosion of interest in the sport.
"A new complex could help contribute to the economy - and to the quality lives of people," Job said.
Others noted that even in the off-season, baseball fields also are in short supply. Longtime resident Ralph Lundy supported more ball fields, saying he is proof of what sports can do for a child's healthy development.
"Our greatest resource is our children," Lundy said. "We don't have enough ball fields. We are growing so fast that we don't have enough for our kids."
The town and Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission jointly purchased the property in 2010 for $20 million using sales tax, greenbelt funding and other sources.
"It's quite a feat and really deserves to be something special," said Charlie Potts, the town's chief finance officer.
However, members of the Hamlin family, which owned the property for three centuries until selling it, urged people to remember the swamps, wild turkey and woods there now.
"The swamp itself is absolutely gorgeous," Elizabeth Hamlin McConnell said.
Town Administrator Eric DeMoura noted that the space will be used for park and recreational activities. "If not for this use, the entire property would probably be neighborhoods and commercial uses," he said.
Meanwhile, residents also voiced ideas for the second phase of Memorial Waterfront Park.
Today, the 14-acre park includes the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Center, a visitor center, war memorial, playground and 1,250-foot pier. The $13.5 million park opened five years ago on July 4. Since then, it has become a major attraction for fishing, various events and vast waterfront views.
"It's been a huge success for us," DeMoura said.
Among the most popular ideas residents voiced for phase two included an amphitheater, trolley stop, rooftop space for a restaurant or coffee shop and a dog park. Many residents also echoed a need for public water access. A dock for everything from water taxis to kayakers also topped the list.
Chip Deaton and Scott Connelly, co-owners of Charleston Water Taxi, supported a water taxi dock that also could be used by kayakers and others "to give water access to everybody who doesn't have access to it," Deaton said to applause.
Reach Jennifer Hawes at 937-5563 or follow her on Twitter.
Shaggin’ on the Cooper is one of many popular events held at Mount Pleasant’s Memorial Waterfront Park. Mount Pleasant town officials are seeking public input about phase two of building its popular Memorial Waterfront Park and recreation property off Rifle Range Road.×
Mount Pleasant town officials are seeking public input about phase two of building its popular Memorial Waterfront Park and recreation property off Rifle Range Road.×
Nearly 100 residents turned out Wednesday to offer input about the future of 245 acres of undeveloped property in Mount Pleasant off Rifle Range Road that will be used for recreation and park space.×
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