The opening of Rosebrock Park Friday, September 16th, marks a significant day for the future of Dorchester County’s citizens. Located on Bacon’s Bridge Road, the park provides picnic shelters, scenic nature trails, and rare public access to the upper Ashley River for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.
The development of this c. 90-acre park (25-acres of which CPW leases to the county) is the hard won result of community persistence. For decades, it served as a swimming hole created by a dam built near the current location of the bridge and was enjoyed by scores of people. After the dam gave way, people continued to come there and fish by the bridge. In the 1990s a “people’s park” was proposed for the location but failed to find sufficient public and political support. When the Ashley was designated a State Scenic River, a management plan published by the Ashley Scenic River Advisory Council (ASRAC) in 2003 built on these efforts. After two years of careful study and the input of approximately 500 members from the community, the plan called for the tract to become a public passive park. In addition to possessing key natural and historical characteristics, the area serves as a northern gateway to the celebrated Ashley River Historic District, entered by thousands of locals and tourists every year to experience the historic plantations and gardens.
Despite the prescience of the passive park concept plan, the Dorchester County Council had voted not to purchase the property when offered to them for sale by Charleston Southern University (CSU). After chancing upon a small article in the newspaper announcing the council’s decision, Summerville residents Lucy Anne Cathcart and Heyward Hutson and ASRAC members George McDaniel, George Neil, and Howard Bridgman drove to council’s meeting in St. George to voice their concern and to urge the council to reconsider. They were told it was too late, the council had rejected the offer, but as a result of their persuasion, councilmen like Richard Rosebrock, Larry Hargett, and others moved for reconsideration to purchase the area as a park, and at the next council meeting in January of 2005 over 150 people, young and old, gathered to press the council to purchase the property for public use. Working behind the scenes, Richard Rosebrock provided critical leadership and deftly used his persuasive abilities.
Also providing leadership was Summerville conservationist Coy Johnston who, working with the Lowcountry Open Land Trust, was able to step up at the outset of the council meeting and announce that the Land Trust was going to buy the land from CSU, using SC Conservation Bank funds. The Land Trust would hold the land and see that it was developed as a passive park, in keeping with the proposed 2003 plan from ASRAC. After winning a costly lawsuit with CSU, the Land Trust did secure title and soon transferred the property to the newly formed Dorchester Trust Foundation. Its trustees consist of Coy Johnston and the two of us. We have now leased the land to the county as a passive park and are pleased with the county’s work and commitment, along with the team of volunteers they assembled to contribute to what you see today.
We are also pleased because this park stands as a symbol of citizen commitment. Time after time, this golden opportunity would have been lost, had it not been for the leadership and cooperation of councilmen like Richard Rosebrock and individual citizens who took the time and effort to step up, to act upon their beliefs and to make a difference. Thanks to those efforts, you will not see housing or commercial developments the next time you drive along this tract on Bacon’s Bridge Road. You’ll see green space. It may well appear as if “nothing happened.”
As many people know, we enjoy places like Rosebrock Park because they offer something wholly apart from the city and ubiquitous subdivisions. They give us a chance to breathe. They give our children a chance to learn. An integrated and accessible rural experience like that provided by the park is essential to understanding not only our American heritage but also our fundamental connection to the lowcountry’s forests and waterways. Rosebrock Park will enable students from nearby Windsor Hill Elementary School and Ashley Ridge High School, as well as families from across the county, to appreciate these relationships first hand.
The culmination of Rosebrock Park also resonates with the widely publicized Watson Hill story, as it is another case in point of the positive impact public and private partnerships can have in protecting our irreplaceable rural areas. This park, along with thoughtfully designed developments, like Mead Westvaco’s East Edisto Project which encompasses Watson Hill, will help sustain cohesive and long term efforts for the entire region that support tourism, recreation and quality of life.
In light of Rosebrock Park’s opening ceremony for the public this Friday, we are reminded, as a community, of how much of a role we actually have in preserving our region’s priceless history and natural resources. Now is the time to continue planning just as wisely for other areas throughout the Ashley River Historic District and Dorchester County. Building upon the longstanding leadership of Richard Rosebrock, we can continue to come together and press the needs for securing green space, local parks and conservation-minded developments in order to enhance outdoor family recreational opportunities, to nourish and educate our children and to secure a brighter future for posterity.