Public gets first view of Ashley River park

  • Tuesday, March 12, 2013

County Councilman Jay Byars, orange jacket, gives a history of the park property to a group of residents assembled for a tour of the Ashley River park site. LESLIE CANTU/JOURNAL SCENE

 More than 500 people showed up Saturday to tour the county’s Ashley River park site and give their own suggestions for its use.
Dorchester County purchased the 85 acres, formerly slated as a residential development, using the $5 million parks and recreation bond money.
It sits at the northeast corner of Bacons Bridge Road and the Ashley River, and will connect beneath the road to Richard Rosebrock Park once the construction on Bacons Bridge Road is complete.
The parks commission already has several ideas for the property, but it solicited public input Saturday.
The more delicate question is how to fund operations at this park and the others that remain in conceptual stages, including Pine Trace and the St. George courthouse park.
Ideas floated thus far have included user fees, public-private partnerships, use of the franchise fee and a dedicated two-mill property tax.
John and Barbara Lybrand said they’d be willing to pay extra taxes to fund the park.
User fees, or an annual pass like those offered by Charleston County parks, would be better, though, John Lybrand said.
A dog trainer, Lybrand said he had ideas for including a dog park on the land and spoke with County Councilman Jay Byars to dispel some of the negative perceptions of dog parks.
Nona Passarello said the future park was wonderful. It should be open and free to everyone, she said.
She’d like to walk the trail every day with her husband for exercise, she said.
Johnnie Len Richards, who lives in nearby Summerville on the Ashley, toured the site with her husband and two young children.
The site is like a “great big back yard” for her children, she said. A user fee, as long as it’s reasonable, makes sense, she said.
Her tour group included people of all ages, she said, and there seemed to be something for everyone on the property.
“I think it’s really going to be a special place in Summerville,” she said.
Mike Dawson of the conservation commission was one of the volunteers giving guided tours.
The commission’s biggest concern is keeping the river corridor natural, he said. It would like a 300-foot buffer from the river’s edge with no manmade structures, with perhaps the exception of an occasional bench.
Dawson said he tried to give the tours from a neutral point-of-view and not voice those concerns to participants, but many came to the same conclusion on their own.
“I heard from a lot of people that they think the same thing,” he said.
Tour organizers collected e-mail addresses from participants and planned to send a 10-question survey about potential uses for the land.
The park could be open to the public by the end of the year.

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