On Hilton Head, park stretching from beach to creek gets renewed push

tbarton@islandpacket.comMay 5, 2012 

A proposed park linking Shelter Cove and the beach that has been discussed for years is moving closer to fruition, but still has years to go.

The Hilton Head Island Town Council chose the park as one of its top priorities for the year, and Mayor Drew Laughlin is urging the town to get started. On Tuesday, the town Public Facilities Committee voted unanimously to recommend the council endorse a rough plan for the mile-and-a-half-long linear park.

Likely to be built in phases, the Chaplin Linear Park and its boardwalks would connect a string of town-owned green spaces beside Shelter Cove Community Park with nearby recreation fields and the beach. The park would follow Broad Creek, cross William Hilton Parkway and continue into the Chaplin area, ending at a proposed beach park off Collier Beach Road.

It's unclear how much the linear park will cost, although one town official estimates about $12 million. The committee directed town workers to come up with a more precise estimate.

The park has been delayed for years because money was tight and there were other priorities, but with the Kroger grocery store chain planning to redevelop The Mall at Shelter Cove, town officials say it's time to revisit the idea.

A sculpture of three horses was unveiled Thursday on property off William Hilton Parkway that would eventually be part of Chaplin Linear Park.

Laughlin used the sculpture unveiling to tout the park plans.

"The park takes advantage of a unique landscape that is quintessentially Hilton Head Island," Laughlin said. "We keep talking of having pedestrian gathering spaces, and this is a way to do that and link them with commercial areas, as well as with the beach, nature and park facilities. ... You have the creek, The Folly and the ocean. This pulls them all together."

The town has assembled most of the property needed for the park. But it would need to purchase Harold's Diner, the gas station next door, a nearby home and vacant land.

Designing, permitting and building the first phase would take about two years, said town urban design administrator Mike Roan. That assumes the council endorses the project and there are no permitting delays for a boardwalk to the proposed beach park.

The plan shown Tuesday also calls for:

  • Relocating tennis courts at Chaplin Community Park to create green space with views of the ocean.

  • Moving or shrinking the dog park at Chaplin Community Park to build a centralized playground.

  • Building a pedestrian bridge to cross William Hilton Parkway at Singleton Beach Road.

  • Reconfiguring William Hilton Parkway at the pedestrian crossover into an elongated traffic circle to slow motorists and provide turn-ins to the park.

  • A community garden, outdoor classroom and a new location for Grant's Market to offer local produce grown in the park.

  • Town Council is expected to discuss the park at a budget workshop this month. If the concept is approved, the town would refine the plan and solicit comments from the public and town commissions, town manager Steve Riley said.

    Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.

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