Driving over the bridges to Hilton Head Island, resident Leslie Richardson is often dazzled by the sparkling waters below.
But as she rides a little farther along William Hilton Parkway, she notices something amiss.
"There is a lack of a sense of arrival," she says.
To address that absence, she and other members of the Greater Island Council have presented conceptual drawings to Town Council for an island entry beautification project, which includes a dolphin fountain, a new welcome sign, a shell monument wall, an expanded median and shoulder plantings.
The group is asking the town to help pay for the project's estimated $1.6 million price tag, as well as commit to ongoing landscape maintenance. A specific amount of town funding was not mentioned.
"We really need to enhance the experience as visitors and residents land on the island that we have a very welcoming, green and park-like setting," said project manager Mark Baker, president of island landscape architecture firm Wood + Partners Inc. "The arrival point is vague now. Motorists ... crossing over the bridge are not sure they've arrived on the island."
Plans also include:
- 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.
- Installing public art along the corridor.
Work would be done in phases, beginning with the welcome sign, fountain, monument wall and landscaping near the entrance to Windmill Harbour, Baker said. That portion of the project is expected to cost about $634,000, he said.
Town Council members welcomed the project Tuesday but were hesitant to endorse it without detailed plans and community input.
"I have many times been asked ... why we didn't have something more beautiful to the entrance and gateway of our island," Councilwoman Kim Likins said at the meeting. "You have that breathtaking (view) coming over the bridge, but it's almost anticlimactic."
Councilman George Williams Jr. said he supports the concept, but says more planning is needed to avoid disrupting access to businesses along the parkway.
Baker said the group 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.
"This is not intended to be final, but to interest people and get their ideas," said project chairman Bruce Fairchild.
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