Old Sullivan’s fort to reveal playful side

Worn paths lead up the side of a dirt mound once used as a defense fortification behind Stith Park on Sullivan’s Island. The former battery may be developed for recreation.

SULLIVAN’S ISLAND — “The Mound” behind Stith Park was born in time of war. Now, the Town Council is considering developing it for recreation.

So far, ideas include an in-ground slide, a walking trail at the top and historical markers.

“We’re not going to turn it into a theme park,” said Mayor Pat O’Neil. “It’s been an important recreational spot for generations of islanders.”

The mound was Battery Capron, an American army ammunition store and mortar battery constructed in 1898 for $175,000. The earth and reinforced concrete structure was part of the Endicott System of seacoast defense. It was active from the outset of the Spanish-American War through much of World War II, according to news reports.

In 1947, Battery Capron became the property of the state before officially being handed over to the island in 1975.

Now, kids use cardboard to slide down its face. A large grassy field, thick stands of bamboo and a few crumbling buildings marked with graffiti are at the top. The town wastewater treatment plant is on the backside.

The mound offers views of Charleston Harbor, the Ben Sawyer Bridge and Middle Street.

After the fort’s retirement, the mound became a place for play and recreation. The walk up the mound on a road next to the fire department offers a bit of exercise. The field at the top looks large enough for a football game.

“It’s surprisingly big,” O’Neil said.

Council has OK’d a consultant taking a look at what could be done with the mound. The next step is a proposed scope of project and price, O’Neil said.

“It’s an engineering study primarily. It’s all going to depend on the feasibility,” he said. “We want it to be a very useful and inviting recreational area.”

So far, ideas include the slide, terracing the mound, improving the road to the top and clearing invasive plants and trees to improve the view.

Those proposals are part of an island Park Foundation initiative to improve Stith Park. The foundation asked the council for the engineering study of what could be done to improve the park. The foundation’s 11-point proposal includes improvements to the gazebo, the bamboo forest and adding a walkway with historical markers at the top of the mound. Fitness stations would also be built at various locations in the park, which has picnic tables, a playground, walking paths, tennis and basketball.

“Thomas and Hutton Engineering will do a feasibility study to address items the Park Foundation is considering for the mound and park,” Town Administrator Andy Benke said in an email.

Benke said he expected the Park Foundation and the town would partner in sharing the cost.

The foundation began in 1990 as a community response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Hugo. It is a private, nonprofit corporation whose purpose is the development and maintenance of island parks. All of its projects and purchases for parks are done with the approval of council.

Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711