Long-awaited park improvements coming to old town Bluffton

July 19, 2011 

After a years-long wait, Bluffton's DuBois Park will get a makeover this year, including new parking, pathways and plantings.

Residents have recommended sprucing up the old town park with open lawns and a space for public art since the creation of the Old Town Master Plan in 2005 and in design workshops over the past several years.

Council has dedicated $160,000 this fiscal year to revamping the 1-acre parcel on Boundary Street.

Those funds would cover demolition of existing structures, planting a rain garden and other landscaping, sidewalks and parking spaces on Boundary and on nearby Lawton and Lawrence streets.

More playground equipment and a new building could come later, transportation engineer Karen Jarrett said during a presentation to town council on Tuesday. The estimate for renovations at the park over three phases is $455,000.

Several structures are currently at the park, including a fenced-in children's playground and a building that housed the Society of Bluffton Artists' gallery until about a month ago. The group moved to a new space on the corner of Church and Calhoun streets to make way for the park improvements.

Society President Chris Clayton asked council Tuesday if the group could continue to use the building for workshops, classes and its free program for students.

Council members asked Jarrett to hold off demolishing that building so they could decide whether to use it as a public facility, such as office space.

However, a modular unit where the Historical Preservation Society stored its archives can be torn down or removed, council members agreed. The group is currently relocating its archives from the aging structure.

A date for construction at the park has not been set, but the design will be finalized after incorporating council members' comments, Jarrett said after the meeting.

The property was deeded to the town in 1940 with the restriction that it always be put to civic use and forever be called DuBois Park.

Former town councilman Charlie Wetmore spoke during the public comment period and thanked town staff for coming up with a new design for the neglected space.

"Looking back a few years ago when we first started wrestling with this issue, it's what we wanted to see and probably more," Wetmore said.

Follow staff writer Allison Stice at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP.

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Residents toss around ideas to improve DuBois Park in Bluffton, Oct. 22, 2009

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