As the Sergeant Jasper story continues to evolve, the following comments are brilliant, if I may say so myself.
Let’s start with an idea: Wouldn’t it be great if the Beach Co. and the city of Charleston were willing to swap land so that the Sergeant Jasper property (and possibly the adjacent St. Mary’s Field) could be transformed into a park? This might be accomplished by swapping out land now used as a parking lot by the police department.
The location might be particularly attractive because of its proximity to Brittlebank Park and Johnson Hagood Stadium, while offering basketball and baseball opportunities through the Arthur Christopher City Gym and soccer/football through nearby Harmon Field. Additionally, Hampton Park, the former Citadel baseball field and Mall Playground would be reasonably accessible, as well.
The city property in question is in the same vicinity as Burke High School, a state-of-the-art facility designed for 1,800 students that only enrolls about 450. Its reputation has suffered due to poor academic achievement and lack of diversity and it has almost totally fallen off the radar screen as a go-to peninsular scholastic destination. Originally designed to serve African-Americans, it appears that many African-Americans in the area choose to look elsewhere.
Accordingly, Burke might be converted into a magnet (or charter) school using the curriculum from Wando High and possibly enhanced by an International Baccalaureate program. Young people living in the “new” Jasper project and in adjacent neighborhoods might be drawn to the “new” Burke and conceivably have access to courses taught at the Medical University of South Carolina, Criminal Justice courses taught through the Charleston Police Department, and to a variety of Citadel offerings including engineering, math and science — all within short walking distance.
The immediate surrounding areas are going through a transformation process as millennials and diverse middle-income citizens from various backgrounds and ethnicities move in, which is something that will only be enhanced as the WestEdge project gains footing. In fact, it might be stated there is presently more open space, more athletic field and academic opportunities per capita in that part of town than anywhere else in the city of Charleston.
Since so much would be accessible by foot, we might observe the realization of one of the earliest and best prototypical 21st century communities. People would theoretically go green. There would be less congestion, and the residential neighborhood would set up as a perfect opportunity for people to use Beach Co. and Jasper-inspired grocery shopping and office space.
The city might sweeten the deal a little by offering the Beach Co. property tax abatement for a certain amount of time (10 years?). When it’s all said and done, that part of town would benefit, as would the Beach Co., the city of Charleston, education providers and — hopefully and most importantly — the African-American community.
If the current Sergeant Jasper and St. Mary’s Field area were converted into a park, it would once again become protected land, as indeed was once the case. It would be landscaped and manicured to a thing of arboreal, sylvan beauty, providing a spectacular entrance way to the southwestern aspect of the peninsula and an enduring legacy for future generations.
And it might be called ...
... The J. C. Long Park. (Oh God how I love that.)
Honest soul that I am, I can’t in good faith take credit for the above, even though I’d like to. But I have spoken to some very wise and influential people who are more interested in ideas and discourse than personal recognition.
Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at edwardgilbreth@ comcast.net.