A group of northern Beaufort County residents making plans for a 25-acre park on Lady's Island hopes to have an outline for the project hammered out by March.
The proposed park at Crystal Lake was first envisioned in the late 1990s; the county spent much of the past decade buying up surrounding land from various property owners, said Jim Hicks, a member of the newly formed Friends of Crystal Lake.
The Stewart family, which includes developer and former county Councilman Dick Stewart, donated about 12 acres, including the lake. The rest was purchased by the county's Rural and Critical Lands program for about $3.2 million, according to a county staff report.
The site also includes the former Butler Marine building, which was recently used as a staging area for road construction that is now complete.
With all of the puzzle pieces finally in place, Hicks said the project is moving forward.
Friends of Crystal Lake, which plans to solicit input from the Lady's Island residents and build community support around a park plan, held its first meeting last month.
Co-chairwoman Peggy Allard said the group wants to include passive recreation and opportunities for visitors to learn about the Lowcountry's natural resources.
In practice, that might mean nature paths, an interpretive center, docks for fishing or a playground for children, Allard and Hicks said. More active options, like ball fields, are not being considered.
"The bottom line is we want to make it a very quiet place, someplace people can enjoy trails," said co-chairman Frank Gibson.
Another option might be a partnership with a private company to provide kayaks so visitors can explore the lake.
By March, Allard hopes to have a plan the group can present to the Beaufort County Council.
"The first thing that has to happen is that the county has to approve it and agree that it's viable for them," she said.
It's not certain when construction might begin, however.
Hicks said he knows the county's budget is tight and expects the project will be taken in phases.
But after a decade of talking about the park, there's light at the end of the tunnel, Hicks said.
"We are a patient group of folks," he said with a laugh.
Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.