When people tell Peggy Allard, president of Friends of Crystal Lake, they can't find the lake that will become part of a park, she tells them there's a good reason.
To get to it, she says, you have to traverse wetlands that are hard to access and not safe for people just to wander into.
But construction began this month on a boardwalk that will change that.
"It'll be good and it'll be safer as far as getting back in there now," she said.
The pilings for the boardwalk are being placed, and the project should be completed by December. At that point, the 660-foot path and 24-foot viewing platform will be open to the public. Migratory-bird rookeries, alligators, otters and numerous other species -- including the occasional bald eagle -- should come into view.
The 26-acre site is off Lady's Island Drive between Carolyn Drive and Rue Du Bois. O'Quinn Marine is doing the construction.
Volunteers with Friends of Crystal Lake, formed in 2011, spent hundreds of hours over the past year clearing brush and removing invasive species. The effort to transform the site can be traced to the mid-1990s, when nearby residents first expressed a desire to turn the area into a park.
Close work with Beaufort County planning officials has made it possible to get to this point, Allard said. The county listened to the friends group, residents, naturalists, master gardeners and others, and are helping create plans that suit the property.
A new use for the vacant building once occupied by Butler Marine also is in the works. Allard is optimistic renovation plans could be approved by the end of the year.
The property has seven acres of lake, four acres of wetlands and 15 acres of upland. The Stewart Family Trust donated the lake to the county in 2006. The county bought the remaining acreage using $3.2 million in Rural and Critical Lands money.
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