MOUNT PLEASANT: City opened $14M park, saw leadership changes

Even before its official opening, cyclists and pedestrians made their way to Mount Pleasant's Memorial Waterfront Park as the light was fading on July 1.

MOUNT PLEASANT -- The opening of the town's crown jewel -- the new $14 million Memorial Waterfront Park -- and the election of a new mayor and four new council members made 2009 a year of big changes here.

On Nov. 3, Billy Swails became the town's 35th mayor in a hotly contested race against fellow councilmen Joe Bustos and Gary Santos. Swails, a 62-year-old insurance agent, received about 45 percent of the vote. Bustos and Santos received 33 percent and 22 percent, respectively.

Swails succeeded Acting Mayor Kruger Smith, who retired after 27 years on council. Smith became the town's interim mayor when Mayor Harry Hallman retired with six months left on his second term, citing his battle against Alzheimer's disease.

In addition, four new council members were elected in November. Craig Rhyne, Elton Carrier, Linda Page and

John Burn joined incumbent council members Paul Gawrych, Thomasena Stokes-Marshall, Nick Collins and Ken Glasson. Gawrych was elected mayor pro-tem.

Memorial Waterfront Park, a project 10 years in the making, opened July 3 in a celebration marking the transformation of 14 acres at the base of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge into the town's prized possession. The park boasts a 1,250-foot pier, the area's longest. The War Memorial and the Sweetgrass Basketmakers Pavilion are among its attractions.

Other 2009 milestones included an effort spearheaded by Santos to get the town's waterways cleared of abandoned boats. Of particular concern was an area resembling a boat junkyard near the mouth of Shem Creek at Crab Bank. The town began a campaign to notify owners to move their boats or face fines, and possibly, jail time.

The new $4.7 million, mile-long Sweetgrass Basket Boulevard from the Isle of Palms connector to Six Mile Road opened in December. In January, Mount Pleasant Open Space Foundation and the Gregorie family signed an agreement to protect 133 acres of natural habitat behind the Market at Oakland shopping center.