Beaufort County wants input from residents as to what they want from possible parks that would use some of its 12,000 acres of conserved land.
The Beaufort County Open Land Trust has been contracted to assess the property secured via its Rural and Critical Lands Preservation Program for possible uses. Recommendations will be passed along to county staff and council members.
Clemson University is partnering with the county and conservation programs to analyze data.
One step in the process is an online survey (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/83LJDDL) available through the end of February. Hard copies are available to fill out and mail from Beaufort County libraries.
Residents will answer questions as to what activities they want -- such as hiking, fishing, biking, camping or birding -- and also what fees they might be willing to pay for such activities.
Up to 20 percent of the $20 million voters approved in 2014 to purchase environmentally sensitive property can be used for infrastructure to build the parks, Rural and Critical Lands administrator Lisa Lord said. Costs to operate and maintain the parks could be covered by nominal park fees or equipment rentals.
"So (it would) kind of get a sense of the public's appetite for that," Lord said of the assessment.
Some property ripe for passive parks include New Riverside, which spans hundreds of acres in southern Beaufort County, and Ihly Farms near Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
Land could be leased for community farming or garden initiatives, Lord said.
Some of the parks are ready to come to County Council for approval, including a butterfly garden for Crystal Lake on Lady's Island, an interprative center at Fort Fremont on St. Helena and walking and horseback-riding trails at Okatie Regional Preserve, Beaufort County planning director Tony Criscitiello said.
Groups like Friends of Crystal Lake can help maintain the area and defray costs, he said. The group's master gardeners and naturalists have agreed to maintain the butterfly and flower gardens.
The 12,000 acres Rural and Critical Lands has purchased outright is available for possible parks. Another 11,500 has been secured through conservation easements, which shield the property from development.
Maintaining all of the property is impossible, Lord said, but parks and sizes would be selected based on feedback. For hiking trails, more space would be allotted. For fishing and boating, an island could be opened to the public.
Some of the property, like the 162-acre Widgeon Point on Lemon Island, are already being used. The land has trails and is used by master naturalists.
Creating more recreational outlets could benefit area tourism as well as the residents who would use them, Lord said. As an example, she pointed to the treehouses that draw visitors to camp on the Edisto River.
"Businesses want to come to places their employees want to be because of the amenities," Lord said. "So I think there is kind of an economic aspect to this."
About the survey
What: Beaufort County residents can offer input on how about 12,000 acres of preserved land should be used
How to participate: The survey is available online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/83LJDDL. Hard copies are available at Beaufort County library branches to fill out and mail.
More information: www.openlandtrust.com
Follow reporter Stephen Fastenau on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.