City approves master plan for Whitehall Park

in News by

Construction on some of passive park’s features to begin spring of 2022

By Mindy Lucas

Plans for a public park on the Lady’s Island property known as Whitehall took another step forward as Beaufort’s City Council recently greenlighted master plans for the property.

Beaufort County purchased the land for the 9.68 acre park in October of 2018 for $5.45 million, with $4.37 million coming from the county’s taxpayer-funded Rural and Critical Lands program.

In a joint agreement, the county was to plan and implement park improvements, while the city would maintain and operate the park, which is already open in its current capacity from dawn until dusk.

However, a lawsuit over an access easement and stormwater drainage area held the project up for more than two years. That dispute was recently settled with the county agreeing to pay the land’s previous owners, developers Whitehall Point Holdings LLC, $42,000.

In addition, the easement to the park was reduced in size and a pump station planned for the park removed, confirmed Beaufort County attorney Kurt Taylor. The developer also agreed to pay the county a “charitable gift” which essentially covered the park’s design and construction, he confirmed.

City council members got their first look at the final master plan for the park at a work session in December and again at their regular Feb. 9 council meeting held virtually.

The county began circulating a draft of the master plan in a survey and online last summer in an effort to get the public’s feedback.

The master plan for Whitehall Park. Courtesy of Beaufort County.

The public park will feature a picnic pavilion, a gathering lawn in an open area already in existence, a bike path and various walking trails. The plan will also maintain its passive park status, said Kyle Theodore of Wood+Partners Inc., the company contracted to design the park’s plans.

“The intent is for the park to be very passive in nature,” Theodore said at the Feb. 9 meeting.

Visitors to the park will be able to access the park via two roads – from a primary access road off Sea Island Parkway and from a secondary road running through a planned development connecting the park to Meridian Road.

In addition, pedestrians and cyclists will eventually be able to enter the park via a planned boardwalk which will connect from the sidewalk at the base of the Woods Memorial bridge to a long narrow finger of land jutting out from the park.

A bicycle path is planned to run along the northern side of the park but bicycles will be prohibited on walking paths in the interior of the park.

photo by Mindy Lucas

A second phase of planning will take place from April through the end of the year, then the county plans to bid out the project with construction work to begin in May of 2022. The master plan also calls for two additional structures, a pier/dock and a covered overlook which will be part of Phase III, county park planners said.

The plan received unanimous approval from city council. The city will take over maintenance of the park this July.

Meanwhile, Whitehall Point Holdings’ commercial and residential development on the property just behind the park, has also moved forward.

That project, which will feature single family lots, townhomes and space for businesses or other commercial uses, was approved by the Metropolitan Planning Commission in December.