Wednesday, August 6, 2014
A small rural community is currently facing a large hurdle in its effort to develop a neighborhood playground.
In a word, it’s money: it is difficult to come by and what is available is not nearly enough to get started, says Margaret Goodwine.
Goodwine, a resident of the Clubhouse community near Ridgeville, has been working with her neighbors to try to raise funds to buy playground equipment for their small neighborhood park near Sand Hill United Methodist Church.
The park is owned and operated through the Sand Hill Community Association, a 501( C ) (3) not-for-profit entity which Goodwine currently chairs. The property currently has a baseball field and a concession stand, however, the community has been working to add playground equipment and a parking area, she said.
“We’ve been trying to develop a community playground for years,” Goodwine said. “But playground equipment is very expensive and it’s something we wouldn’t want to install ourselves.”
For years the community leased the baseball field property from MeadWestvaco; later, with the help of Sand Hill United Methodist Church, the community bought the property. The Sand Hill Community Organization is also currently working with MeadWestvaco to obtain another small parcel of land for a parking area, she said.
However, funds for equipment are difficult to find. The organization estimates the cost for what they want – a small play structure, swings, and a couple of climbers – at around $150,000, Goodwine said. Aside from a $10,000 gift to the organization – specifically designated for playground equipment – they have not been very successful in fundraising efforts, she said.
“No one seems to be getting any money any more,”Goodwine said. “We’ve tried very hard with the community foundation and with private fundraising efforts, but we’re struggling – it’s hard to raise funds in the rural areas.”
The Sand Hill Community Organization, along with many area recreation organizations, used to obtain some funding from the county. However, the county has made some changes in its approach to parks and recreation.
Dorchester County Councilman Jay Byars, who chairs the county’s parks and recreation commission, said the county’s move to a regional approach to parks and recreation has brought some changes to parks and recreation funding mechanisms.
“Prior to 2010 money for recreation came from franchise fees and parks and organizations applied for it,” Byars said. “Funds were awarded based on the merits of the requests.”
When the county bought the Pine Trace property in 2011, a 350-acre tract off Miles Jamison Road slated to be the county’s premiere showcase park, it was financed through a $5 million bond passed by Dorchester County voters rather than a tax increase; the franchise fees were re-directed to service that bond, Byars said.
A number of issues will ultimately hinge on a couple of fairly imminent events: the hiring of a full time Parks and Recreation Director and the sale of property at Pine Trace, he said.
“The Parks and Recreation Director will be in charge of understanding and administering all these county parks and analyzing the assets to see where we can get the best return for taxpayer money,” Byars said.
However, the smaller area parks are no longer funded as they were and will need to seek alternate revenue sources to augment any county funding they may receive, he said.
The sale of a parcel of the Pine Trace property by the county to a private developer should generate funds to get some of the regional projects moving again, such as the opening of the Ashley River Park, which was initially slated to be opened in the spring of 2014, he said.