Theodora Park a model for future

Theodora Park in Charleston was a collaboration between Ansonborough resident David Rawle, the city, the Charleston Parks Conservancy, landscape architect Sheila Wertimer and several others. (Julia Lynn/Provided)

Public spaces become more and more precious as peninsular Charleston grows, and the city received a new gem this week.

Today, the Charleston Parks Conservancy and a group of enthusiastic citizens will dedicate Theodora Park, a small but welcoming pocket of green space at the corner of George and Anson streets.

Technically the park isn’t new. It replaces an older public space that neighbors — including David Rawle, a longtime Ansonborough resident who spearheaded the renovation — said was underutilized and poorly maintained. The park, named in honor of Mr. Rawle’s mother, seems poised for a much brighter future.

Designed, funded and built in a collaboration that includes private citizens, the CPC and the city of Charleston, Theodora Park exemplifies the power of teamwork and the ability of enthusiastic neighbors to bring positive change to their community. It should serve as a model for future projects.

Theodora Park features a fountain with handmade tiles, an authentic iron gate built by Philip Simmons, decorative brickwork, twin banks of benches, cafe tables and attractive, low-maintenance landscaping.

The location across from the newly renovated Gaillard Center should also make it an appealing place to gather before or after performances when the auditorium opens in the fall.

It’s easy to imagine neighbors, visitors and passersby stopping to take a breather, eat lunch or sip a coffee in the park, which feels particularly inviting thanks to its small size, open layout and proximity to the sidewalk.

And such uses deserve strong protection and encouragement as Charleston grows into a more intense urban environment. If the city is to remain a functioning, vibrant place for people to live, work and play, priority must be given to creating a robust network of public spaces.

Parks big and small, strategically spaced across the peninsula’s varied neighborhoods, break the city into manageable sections and provide restful, re-energizing oases. Now is the time to plan for and preserve those vital spaces.

Importantly, Theodora Park also demonstrates that public places need not represent a burden on taxpayers. The city’s contribution represented only about one-third of the park’s cost, with the rest coming from private donations.

But all Charlestonians can be proud of the city’s newest park. It may be small, but it is beautiful, vital and it ought to point the way toward great things to come.