Daufuskie Island residents will have to wait longer for a park they expected 17 years ago.
The amount of money Beaufort County has earmarked for the park -- $25,000 -- is a fraction of what is needed, according to county administrator Gary Kubic. The park the county envisions -- equipped with bathrooms, a parking lot, pavilion and oyster-roasting pit -- would cost $328,000, he said.
So Kubic wants to shift the $25,000 to another project -- finishing a park on Lady's Island, then start the Daufuskie park next year and completing it in three stages.
"For $25,000, you cannot provide anything that I think matches what (Daufuskie) people have in their minds," Kubic said.
The county is under pressure to decide how the $25,000 will be used. The money, provided by the state Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department in the early 1990s, was intended to help the county build a park on a three-acre site on Daufuskie.
Early this year, the state parks department discovered the Daufuskie park was never built. It told the county to submit plans to build the park, return the money or spend it on another park project.
Kubic prefers the third option -- using the $25,000 for the nearly completed park on Lady's Island. To do so, he must get the approval of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, department spokesman Marion Edmonds said.
If the agency says no, Kubic said returning the money might be the next best option.
"Just because the state gave us a grant for $25,000 does not mean we have to build a park," he said. "... It's a lot cheaper to pay them the money back."
Daufuskie residents who want the park expressed disappointment.
"Basically, my thinking is that Beaufort County is playing games," said Irvin Simmons, president of the Daufuskie Island Foundation.
Simmons said he remembers when the county bought the land for the park, part of a 10-acre site that was to include a helicopter pad and a small sheriff's station.
The county now wants to put a garbage drop-off facility on part of the land, but that proposal is in limbo because some island residents have filed a lawsuit to block it.
"Don't say we're going to hold off and say we'll do something nice in a year or so, and in the meantime develop a dump site," Simmons said.
Daufuskie Island Council Chairman Aaron Crosby said he's optimistic the park will be built eventually, but would have liked to see the $25,000 come to the island in the meantime.
"We would always prefer that money is spent on worthwhile projects on Daufuskie," Crosby said.
Follow Anne Christnovich at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.