Fun, games come at price

SUMMERVILLE — A ropes course, a BMX track, an aquatic fitness competition pond, ball fields, pavilions, shelters — the Pine Trace park would have attractions to compete with vaunted Charleston County parks for fee-paying visitors.

That’s the concept anyway. It’s estimated it will cost more than $8 million to build, and that isn’t nearly so attractive.

“Blown away. Blown away,” Dorchester County Council Chairman Larry Hargett said about the price tag, after council on Monday approved the conceptual plan for the park.

“But it’s a great plan,” he said.

The plan was approved in order to seek rezoning by the town of Summerville for the 330-acre property; it sits off Miles-Jamison Road inside town limits and is zoned for residential use.

The plan also includes miles of wooded hiker-biker trails, playgrounds, disc golf, an open meadow for events such as festivals, a dog park, community garden and a multipurpose building that could be used for basketball courts.

The county purchased the property for $3 million in 2011, the first major investment of a $5 million bond approved by voters for parks and conservation. It is planned to be the county’s signature regional park called for in a comprehensive parks plan.

Officials hope to build the complex in phases without a tax increase. The money to start, they hope, will come from the sale of 25 to 50 acres along its fringe.

They also plan to bring in business and nonprofit partners to defray costs and operating expenses. The ropes course, for instance, would be contracted to a company specializing in the courses.

The park will have both “active” features, such as the ball fields, and “passive” features, such as the trail, according to the plan.

“The ‘active’ park will help pay for itself with user fees from leagues and weekend tourneys,” said County Councilman Jay Byars, who heads the park committee. But the park is far from a done deal.

“I don’t think that we could pay for it without a tax increase, unless the county grows substantially,” Councilman David Chinnis said. “It’s a great idea. We just have to figure out how to pay for it (without increasing taxes).”

Summerville Mayor Bill Collins said the town has not seen the plan yet, but he likes that some of the property will be developed, providing some potential tax revenue lost when the county took over the 330 acres.

“We’ll take a look at it, discuss it with them and see if we can make (the rezoning) happen,” he said.

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on Twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.

Science and environment reporter. Author of Washing Our Hands in the Clouds.