Bluffton jumps at applying for grant to build public dock at Oyster Factory Park

February 23, 2010 

Bluffton's Oyster Factory Park might get a public dock sooner than expected after the Beaufort County Council agreed this week to contribute $125,000 to the project.

The money will come from county Parks and Leisure Services impact fees, which are charged to developers when building new homes. The money, approved Monday, would match a potential $250,000 grant from the S.C. Department ofParks, Recreation and Tourism.

Bluffton also would contribute $125,000 to match the Land and Water Conservation Grant, said Laura Budak, Bluffton's project coordinator.

Budak reminded council members of a 2004 agreement between the town and the county to share responsibility in maintaining the county-owned park.

"The county made a commitment," Budak said. "Over time, I've come here again and again. This is not me begging. ... We're in this together."

The dock was planned for the last part of a four-phase Oyster Factory Park improvement project, but Budak said town staff decided to try to hasten its construction because of the grant's availability. The application was submitted Tuesday, and Budak said she expects to hear from the state in late spring.

"This particular grant is too good to pass up," Budak said.

County Council members approved spending the same amount last year when the town applied for the same grant, but the town's request was denied. The proposal -- for an oyster roast pavilion, additional walking trails and more parking -- lost out to a larger, regional park system elsewhere in the state. Budak said she expects the dock to satisfy the grant's focus on water recreation.

"The dock will be more like what you would see at the county's public boat ramps," she said. "We've had a lot of conversations with boaters who would like to see it because they have nowhere to tie up."

The project to improve Oyster Factory Park was first proposed in 2002 and is expected to cost about $2.2 million. Budak estimates it will cost $450,000 to build the public dock.

Bluffton will spend $365,000 on phase one, which includes upgrading Wharf Street, building a roadside stormwater drainage system, resurfacing the May River public boat launch and stabilizing a riverside bluff. Beaufort County will contribute $200,000 to this phase.

Before construction begins on phase one, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control must review the plans to ensure the river will not be harmed. Budak expects the permits to come through in April, but a specific construction start date has not been set.

To apply for the grant, the town submitted a preliminary drawing of the dock. Its features included a boardwalk, a platform with seating and a fixed pier leading to a floating dock. If the grant is awarded, the town would hire a contractor and take the project through the local and state permitting process.

"We have to make sure the power boaters and the small-craft boaters like kayakers are happy," she said. "But it could be another year before construction begins. There's a long road ahead."

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