Understated should stay island's trademark

info@islandpacket.comSeptember 26, 2013 

This drawing shows a conceptual entryway to Hilton Head Island.

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A proposal to make a more dramatic statement to announce visitors' arrival on Hilton Head Island is well-intentioned, but is it necessary?

The Greater Island Council has presented conceptual drawings for an island entry beautification project to Hilton Head's Town Council. The drawings show a dolphin fountain, a new welcome sign, a shell monument wall, and expanded median and shoulder plantings. It would be placed near the entrance to Windmill Harbour, which, it should be noted, is on Jenkins Island, not Hilton Head.

The group also is suggesting lengthening guardrails on the J. Wilton Graves Bridge spanning Skull Creek to allow for plants at the foot of the bridge; thinning vegetation on town-owned land along William Hilton Parkway to improve views of the marsh; and installing public art along the corridor.

The total price tag is $1.6 million, with the entryway project expected to cost about $634,000. The group wants the town to help pay for the project and commit to ongoing maintenance. It intends to solicit input and support from island civic groups, as well as seek grants and private donations, before returning to the town with final plans.

An improved sign welcoming visitors to Hilton Head might be justified, but this price tag is high. And the project doesn't exactly signal the subtlety of design that has been Hilton Head's hallmark for most of its modern development.

There also seems to be agreement that the panoramic view from the bridges connecting Hilton Head to the mainland sets the tone of an island visit for most people. Why isn't that enough? Why do we need further announcement of arriving on an island? Doesn't coming down off a major bridge over a large waterway say it?

If private groups or individuals want to contribute to a project, that's fine. But the town has many demands on its resources. And all involved should keep in mind that there's a great deal of value in understated design, especially on an island that built its reputation on blending in with the area's natural beauty.

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