Your park preferences Deciding uses for new properties

Bulow Hunt Club near Red Top is one of the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission’s parkland acquisitions. It was being set up for a weekend wedding on Friday.

From archeological sites to a skeet range, recent acquisitions by Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission have nearly doubled the amount of land in its system.

Now, county officials want to know what residents would like them to do with that land, which brings the county’s total to 9,920 acres.

“Parks for Tomorrow” is a countywide effort to gather public opinion for a 10-year master plan for facilities and services, said commission planning director Julie Hensley.

The survey “is about the new properties, but it’s also about the existing parks and programs,” she said. It asks about activities, events, facilities and programs.

“We pretty well have covered the county at this point,” she said about the geographical spread of existing parks. “So the question is, where do we start with the building process?” Park officials are looking for “what people want to see in the future,” whether it’s keeping the programs provided now or adding new ones such as archery or extreme sports, she said.

Many residents who use the parks now feel there’s little room for improvement.

“I think the parks are very good,” said Eliza Brooks of Summerville, who brings her two preschoolers to Wannamaker County Park in North Charleston regularly. “Wannamaker has a little bit of everything. There is always something to do.”

If she had to criticize something, Karin Youmans, the mother of an 11-month-old, said it would be the lack of play space specifically for the youngest patrons.

“There are only one or two baby swings, and there are always a lot of babies there,” she said. “I would like to see more baby-oriented stuff, like they have the small dog park separate from the big dog park. That’s what they need to do for kids.”

Other visitors to the parks on Friday suggested more bike and hiking trails and even an amusement park.

“I come out here (to the Mount Pleasant Pier) a lot for the scenic view and the swings,” said Thomas Robinson Jr. of Mount Pleasant. “But I think an amusement park in this area would be kind of cool.”

Unfortunately for him, the 12 land acquisitions in the last five years have varied features, but none has a roller coaster. Doar Road has archaeological sites eligible for the National Register of Historic Places; the Bulow Hunt Club has a lodge and skeet range; and McLeod Plantation has slave cabins. And there are lots of acres for hiking, biking and birding.

Throughout the summer, focus group meetings and public workshops were held as part of the survey process.

In addition to the online survey, a questionnaire is being mailed to 12,000 randomly selected households throughout August. Results will be reviewed this fall, with a plan expected for completion by April 2013.