MOUNT PLEASANT -- With its shrimp boats, restaurants and inns, Shem Creek is the iconic, picturesque part of town where restaurant patrons enjoy food, drinks and sweeping marsh views.
Now the public is one step closer to being able to enjoy the creek as Town Council intended.
The town's $2.1 million plan for a public park on 48 acres at Shem Creek moves forward this week when it submits plans for the project to state Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Kevin Mitchell, project engineer.
"We really don't expect any controversy over this one," Mitchell said. But he added, "It's just such a significant project that we don't know what to expect, honestly."
The park would begin at a half-acre of high ground just off Coleman Boulevard known as the former OK Tire site next to the Shem Creek bridge. From there, more than 1,000 feet of boardwalk would connect to a hummock island and then on to the creekfront docks. A commercial fishing dock and a town dock center are in the plan.
Ocean and Coastal Resource Management "may want to have their own public hearing on this one, depending on the comments received when it goes out on public notice," Mitchell said.
Ocean and Coastal Resource Management and town staff met last week to discuss the project. "Once we receive an application and determine its administrative completeness, we will put it on public notice for 30 days," said Dan Burger, Ocean and Coastal Resource Management spokesman.
During that time the public may submit comments to the agency. "If we receive 20 requests for a public hearing and/or a request from a local elected official, DHEC (Department of Health and Environmental Control) will hold a public hearing," he said.
Because of those sorts of variables, exactly when the park might open to the public is difficult to predict. "It all depends on the permitting process," Mitchell said. The town anticipates obtaining the necessary state and federal permits by next September or October, when it also plans to begin advertising for construction bids. At that point, construction of the first phase of the project could begin, he said.
"The elements are budget-driven, so I cannot be exact until we know what will be permitted. Our priority is to complete the boardwalk section from OK Tire site to the terminus of the pier near Twin Sisters Creek. This will take approximately four to five months of construction," Mitchell said. The park will have a few dozen parking spaces at the old OK Tire site.
In September, Town Council OK'd a conceptual plan for the property that includes floating docks, a sailing school, a pedestrian drawbridge and boardwalks for public enjoyment of the marsh. Concrete floating docks would provide a place for people to visit the park by boat.
Some council members had expressed concerns about the town docks on Shem Creek being made available for overnight stays, but Mitchell said that isn't part of the plan.
"There's no provision to allow rentals, charters or overnight stays," he said. Drawings prepared by Thomas & Hutton Engineering show a 10-foot-wide boardwalk that begins at the site of the old OK Tire property near the intersection of Coleman Boulevard and Pelzer Drive and extends over Jones Creek past Vickery's restaurant to a hummock island.
From the island, two more boardwalks connect to the creek-front walk and floating docks toward the harbor. The project appears to follow the footprint of a rickety boardwalk and pier that currently exists at the location.
In late 2007, Town Council reached an agreement with the creek property owner to purchase it for $6 million after filing a lawsuit to condemn the acreage.
Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711 or email@example.com