By Peggy Allard
The Friends of Crystal Lake (FOCL) was graciously invited by the Lady’s Island Garden Club and Green Drinks Beaufort, an informal group that meets monthly to discuss local environmental issues, to provide a presentation on the lake and the plans to develop it into a passive park. In each case, the support for the project has been fantastic. The following two questions have been heard most often in response to these briefings:
Q: How soon can the Crystal Lake Park be open to the public?
A: The simple answer is we expect sometime in early 2013 we should have a walkway across one area of wetlands that will provide access to the lake and connect the first phase of a walking path. The Crystal Lake Park project is one of the first projects in which property, purchased as part of the Beaufort County Rural and Critical Lands Program, is not only to be preserved but also opened to the public. The challenges involved in accomplishing this fall into three categories: meeting environmental requirements; money, for development and long-term maintenance; and how best to use the existing building (former Butler Marine facility).
Q: What can we do to help?
A: Permission has been granted to conduct, with county approval, self-help projects on the Crystal Lake property; however, until the boardwalk over the wetlands is completed, access to the lake itself is a challenge. Volunteers from the Master Naturalist have taken the initiative to conduct a trash clean up along with initiating the first steps to eradicate or at least reduce the number of Tallow trees (an invasive species of trees that is capable of modifying the surrounding ecostructure) in the park.
Ms. Dawn Ramsey spent a day taking beautiful pictures of the park area and provided them for use by FOCL. These are only a couple of examples of the many offers of community help and assistance provided in support of the development of Crystal Lake into a passive park.
The FOCL has been approved by the South Carolina Secretary of State to operate as a nonprofit (501.c3) organization. The bylaws for the operation of the organization have been drafted and approved. According to the bylaws, Friends of Crystal Lake will consist of a board of directors comprised of representatives of the various organizations key to the development and long-term operation of the lake as a park. Such organizations include neighborhood residents, Beaufort County Planning Department, Beaufort County School system, Lowcountry Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists, the Port Royal Sound Foundation, the South Coast Chapter of the Native Plant Society, and St. Peter’s Church. It will not attempt to have a general membership.
Behind the scenes, a great deal has been accomplished by the staff of the Beaufort County Planning Department in conjunction with the FOCL to prepare for development of the park. We anticipate that the public will soon be able to see progress and have access to this special property.
Finally, to everyone in the community, both individuals and organizations, who have offered their support for the Crystal Lake project — thank you so much.
Peggy Allard is president of the Friends of Crystal Lake. This article was provided by the Lady’s Island Business Professionals Association. For more information about Crystal Lake, visit www.libpa.org.