Hilton Head panel endorses new park trail designs

tbarton@islandpacket.comDecember 18, 2013 

Some residents and biking advocates like the look of new drawings for a 1.5-mile park trail that would stretch from Shelter Cove to Collier Beach.

Hilton Head Island Town Council's Public Facilities Committee voted 2-1 Tuesday to endorse a new design for the $8 million to $9 million project, which would connect a string of town-owned properties along Broad Creek to nearby recreation fields and Collier and Burkes beaches.

Key features include a trail on the edge of Broad Creek's marsh, fishing and observation piers, a tree house, nature pavilion, additional beach parking, and a boardwalk across The Folly to connect Chaplin Community Park with Collier Beach.

"This project is not about another pathway," Frank Babel, co-chairman of the town's Bicycle Advisory Committee, said. "It's about the creation of a new trail that will ... become a Hilton Head Island destination and add excitement and energy to our community."

Committee member John McCann worries the project is too costly.

"It's an outstanding plan that can be done in phases, but the total cost and maintenance and replacement cost is too high," he said.

He also said the timing is bad because the town is also considering broad plans for redevelopment of the Coligny area and a University of South Carolina campus on Office Park Road.

Babel and other residents argue the trail will give the new Shelter Cove Towne Centre and mid-island area an economic boost, and provide a needed link between the beach, the shopping center and Shelter Cove Community Park.

Committee chairwoman Kim Likins and member Marc Grant agreed.

The project would be built in phases, beginning with the trail and additional parking and restrooms at both ends of the linear park. Council has set aside $2.5 million for that portion, with construction tentatively starting during the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014, and ending June 30, 2015.

Other elements would be planned as the town can afford them, using proceeds from a tax-increment finance district, town urban designer Jennifer Ray said. The district funds capital projects, such as the linear park, proposed Coligny redevelopment and USCB campus, and road and sewer improvements.

The new design adds on-street parking along Shelter Cove Lane and excludes previous plans for a new beach park at Collier Beach, which some nearby residents oppose.

Since the late 1990s, the town has wanted to use the Collier site for a small park with handicapped parking, a bathroom and a turnaround drive.

The additional parking, bathrooms and a turnaround drive are instead proposed for congested Burkes Beach Road.

But some still worry about the beach park's eventual development and argue the area is not suitable for building because it floods regularly.

"The boardwalk spanning The Folly to Collier Beach is a great idea, where people can enjoy The Folly, but not destroy it with parking and restrooms, and (I) would like for the town to leave it at that," said Julie Hallquist, an advocate for the Folly Inlet Initiative, a group formed to protect the tidal creek that flows into the ocean at Burkes Beach.

The designs will go to Town Council for consideration in January.

Document: Town of Hilton Head Island Public Facilities Committee Meeting

This document includes statements and plans about the proposed Chaplin Linear Park. Click the "Scribd" icon for more comfortable viewing. On some mobile devices, you can tap the document window for this purpose. You may wish to download the document for the best viewing experience.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.

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