Plans for a 1.5-mile linear park that would connect a revamped Shelter Cove shopping center to the beach with paths have been trimmed by Hilton Head Island Town Council.
A split-level treehouse observation tower; an elaborate, curving bridge across a Broad Creek inlet; and a boardwalk to connect Chaplin Community Park with Collier Beach Park are among the features deemed too expensive.
At a budget workshop last week, Town Council directed staff to scale down plans for Chaplin Linear Park. Council members said that although the town can’t afford the add-ons now, they might be built later.
“What I believe we should do is begin the spine of it — the trail, if you will — from the Shelter Cove mall and through Chaplin,” Mayor Drew Laughlin said at the meeting.
“I would suggest that all the bells, buttons and whistles be deferred to another day.”
Revisions would trim the cost to about $2.5 million, according to town manager Steve Riley.
The estimate for the project had ballooned to about $6 million by last week’s meeting, doubling since last August when Town Council approved conceptual plans.
Riley said that’s because residents asked for features to be built into the park, which would connect a string of town properties along Broad Creek before crossing William Hilton Parkway at Singleton Beach Road and continuing to Chaplin Park.
Town planners met with local architects in October and “came up with a beautiful curving bridge and a really, really cool tower and some other things that are really cool,” Riley said.
“But ‘really cool’ ... costs a lot of money.”
Councilman John McCann said he supported the project but added, “We don’t need ‘cool’ right now; we need a basic structure.” The project was named a top priority in the town’s 2013 strategic plan, but council is under pressure to shed costs from the linear park and other capital projects, according to Riley.
That’s because the ongoing Beaufort County property-value reassessment is expected to create a $4.6 million shortfall of tax-increment finance district money next fiscal year, Riley said. The district funds capital projects, such as the linear park, the proposed redevelopment of Coligny and some road improvements.
Town Council has scaled back plans for the linear park before. An April 2012 conceptual plan included gardens, a traffic roundabout, an observation tower, a farmers market and pavilions. The council scrapped most of the features for a more basic plan, Riley said.
Laughlin said the park, like other town capital projects, began with “a fairly modest idea” that had so many features added, “it gets so expensive that we decide not to do it.”
“And I would hate to see that happen here,” he said.
A new design for the park could be ready for the council’s review in the fall, Riley said.
Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_Brian.