County parks poised for growth

  • Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Thomas & Hutton took the rough draft drawn when the park was first proposed, sifted through the suggestions made by the public after the March walk-through, and came up with this new proposal for the Ashley River park site. PROVIDED

 The county’s parks and recreation commission has an updated plan for its Ashley River park site as well as plans for another public input session.
The new plan comes as the commission is expanding in membership and the county is preparing to hire a parks and recreation director.
While plans for the Ashley River site are barreling forward, plans for the park at the courthouse in St. George appear to have stalled.
Meanwhile, the county is working with a developer interested in buying a portion of the Pine Trace property to become single-family homes.
County Council voted in January to list part of the property for sale, with the idea that selling perhaps 75 acres would bring in the necessary funds to develop the rest of the land into a countywide park.
Council members had talked about allowing only senior housing on the developed portion so the homes wouldn’t add to the school-aged population.
But developers weren’t keen on the idea of age-restricted housing, said Councilman Jay Byars, who sits as the council representative on the parks and recreation commission.
The number of houses on the to-be-sold land can be kept to a manageable number and shouldn’t greatly affect the school planned for Pine Trace, he said.
The school would still be a neighborhood school for The Bridges and other neighborhoods in the area, he said.
Allyson Duke, chief financial officer at Dorchester School District 2, said the district hadn’t received any information about non-age-restricted homes being developed.
However, the school will be designed to hold 1,000 students, she said. It should be open for the 2015-2016 school year.
The most ambitious parks plan is probably for Pine Trace, but the Ashley River site is most likely to open first because it will be the least developed.
The parks and recreation commission held a public walk-through in March to solicit ideas for the Ashley River site.
Consultant Thomas & Hutton took those ideas and came up with a more polished plan than what was first presented to the public, Byars said.
The commission will likely hold another on-site public session in August to get more comments on the updated plan, he said.
And by the end of August, the county should have its parks and recreation director in place, said Ashley Jacobs, county deputy administrator.
The job description is being developed now, she said.
The parks and recreation commission will have input as the job and salary are fleshed out and during the interview process.
It’s time to have someone who can concentrate on the burgeoning parks system, Byars said.
“It needs to be somebody that does this full-time; that’s not Jay Byars,” he said.
The new director will have to work with the community in St. George to figure out what to put in the courthouse park.
“We’re getting mixed signals there,” acknowledged Byars, who said the commission has run into wetlands issues with updated engineering finding more wetlands than originally delineated.

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