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Years-long creation of Crystal Lake Park culminates with opening of nature trail

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By MINDY LUCAS

Beaufort County residents looking for a new place to view and interact with nature should look no further than Lady’s Island.

Crystal Lake Park off Lady’s Island Drive held a grand opening for its new nature trail on Thursday, Jan. 23.

Part of Phase II of the Beaufort County passive park’s construction, the opening of the trail marks the culmination of its creation, created from “putting the pieces … together one by one” over a five-year period and with an investment of about $3.5 million, said Beaufort County Councilman Paul Sommerville at the event’s ribbon cutting.

The 25-acre park features a forested habitat, salt marsh and a man-made lake with redfish and mullet. Fishing, however, is catch and release only since there is a potential for unacceptably high cancer and non-cancer health risks, a release stated.

A variety of birds, including migratory and resident songbirds, have been spotted in the park as well as alligators and deer.

Now that the trail is complete, visitors can walk around the lake on a raised fenced boardwalk and take in scenic views.

It’s also one of the only fresh water lakes in the area, said Stefanie Nagid, Beaufort County’s passive parks manager who was on hand for Thursday’s grand opening.

“The biggest benefit of this park is the ability for the public to see alligators and birds on the lake at a safe distance and be able to have that kind of intimate interaction with nature,” she said.

Nagid said she’d received a lot of calls from citizens who said they didn’t realize the park was open to the public, though the final acreage was acquired in 2009.

Renovations to the Butler Marine building, on the first parcel acquired, began in 2012 and the Beaufort County Open Land Trust and the Beaufort Soil and Water Conservation District moved into the building in 2017.

Green technology was also employed in the building’s renovations and the county now receives refunds from Dominion Energy.

After the trail was opened, a group comprised of county officials and curious residents took a guided walk around the lake.

Jo and Guy Long who had just moved to the area in May were excited to see the new boardwalk.

“Isn’t this beautiful,” said Guy Long.

The two live within about a mile of the park and said they plan to return soon.

“We’ll be back and we’ll bring our doggie,” he said.

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