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City moves ahead on improvements to Southside, Washington Street parks

From staff reports

According to a news release from the City of Beaufort, improvements are on the way at two of Beaufort’s parks: Southside Park and Washington Street Park. On Tuesday, Sept. 14, City Council moved forward on both parks.

Southside Park

City Council approved a $412,000 contract with the engineering firm Davis & Floyd to perform engineering and permitting services at Southside, based on the Southside Park Phase 1 Playground Area Improvements, which City Council approved in May. The contract includes services by subcontractor Woods + Partners.

Southside Park, in the Mossy Oaks neighborhood, comprises 34 acres. Last year, a Southside Park Advisory Task Force was convened to recommend improvements to the park, which consists now of a dog park, a large grassy lawn, and trails. Landscape architects Woods + Partners then developed a Master Plan, presented to City Council this past spring, based on the task force’s recommendations. Total cost for all the improvements, including adding a playground, pavilion, and many other amenities, would exceed $6 million. Phase 1 is estimated to cost $1.6 million.

As part of its contract, David & Floyd will do stormwater modeling at the park, which frequently has drainage issues during heavy rains.

City Council also authorized Tuesday the sale of a strip of land across from the old Federal Courthouse on Bay Street to Beaufort County for $630,000. The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office is moving to the old Courthouse, and will use this land for parking. City Manager Bill Prokop recommended that the proceeds from the sale be used for Southside Park improvements.

“This essentially gets us ready to put shovels in the ground for Phase 1,” Mayor Stephen Murray said of the engineering work during the meeting.

Councilman Neil Lipsitz thanked the members of the Task Force. 

“I’m very excited that we’re getting somewhere after all these years,” Lipsitz said.

Washington Street Park

City Council also passed a resolution to apply for a $250,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for improvements to Washington Street Park, a neighborhood park in the Northwest Quarter. If the grant is approved by the South Carolina Department of Commerce, it would be used to build a new 30-by-60 foot pavilion at the park. The City’s match would be $25,000.

The City has developed a Master Plan for improvements at Washington Street Park, in concert with the non-profit that owns the park. In the spring of 2021, the City installed new playground equipment at the park. It added new bathrooms in 2019. Total improvements at the park are estimated at $925,000, and the City will tackle improvements in phases.

The park was developed in the 1940s as the Beaufort County Negro Recreational Center by African-American leaders – the only park in the City at the time for black families and children. The City of Beaufort manages the park for the non-profit that owns the park. The non-profit is comprised of the descendants of the original families who founded the park.

Former Beaufort County Coroner Ed Allen, a member of the nonprofit, said at a public hearing, “As a child who grew up in that community and played at the park, we welcome the support we are getting from the City and staff in terms of the application. It will improve the whole city. It’s another plus for the City of Beaufort.”

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