After years of lumbering along, as Mayor Billy Keyserling puts it, a plan to improve Southside Park in Beaufort is picking up speed.
Work to bring running water and to build a 10-foot-wide, asphalt path could begin within weeks, Southside Park Committee member Don Starkey said. Weather permitting, it could start as soon as city staff marks out where the features will go.
After confirming with City Council that $24,600 for the park is available this year and another $25,000 will be in next year's budget, the committee met Thursday to firm up plans.
The asphalt path will be about a third of a mile long and connect the sites of two future dog parks -- one for small dogs, the other for large ones.
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"It would seem to me, with the $24,000, you could get a long way to getting that trail done," Keyserling said.
The committee plans to pay for the work through several sources, including the money in the city budget, $50,000 of in-kind donations from the Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority and community donations, according to a staff report by landscape architects and discussion at recent meetings.
City funding from this year would cover $9,600 for remilling 1,200 tons of asphalt for the path and $9,900 for clearing underbrush.
BJWSA would construct the trail and remove trees from the 6.6 acre park -- more than $26,000 of in-kind work -- according to the committee's plan. Another $5,000 of in-kind work will run a water line for fountains at the dog parks.
Fencing for the parks is another matter. In February, City Council discussed the city covering half the $14,000 cost if the committee raises the rest.
Committee member Connie Hipp said the committee would like a formal commitment in order to start negotiating contracts and raising money, knowing the city's portion will be there.
If needed, Starkey said, the committee could also possibly buy the fencing with next year's park budget. He hopes to raise money to pay for benches, the fountain and other features people can enjoy.
City landscape architect Liza Hill also hopes to start a long-discussed tree farm that the city's Tree Board wants.
Hill is applying for a federal grant of approximately $500,000, which could be used for a playground, the tree farm and additional park access roads, Starkey said.
"Everyone is enthused we might actually start getting things done," Starkey said.
Fundraising will be easier if some improvements begin and people can see and use the park more, Starkey added.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.