Construction on a public rowing and sailing center on Hilton Head Island should be finished next month, and boaters can take classes from its dock on Skull Creek starting in spring, officials said Monday.
The 8-acre center off Squire Pope Road will have a floating dock, handicapped-accessible pier and community park. The pier and dock can be used for fishing, crabbing and launching boats.
Classes from the dock will likely include basic kayaking, rowing and paddleboarding, said Frank Soule, executive director of the Hilton Head Island Recreation Association. The association also will host a summer camp.
"This is a unique investment in our community, allowing for children's and adult sailing and rowing classes that have not been readily available before," said Heather Rath, town Parks and Recreation Commission chairwoman.
The park will feature a picnic pavilion, playground, fire pit, fenced boat storage, restrooms and parking, according to town documents. It will be open from 7 a.m. to sunset. Visitors can rent the pavilion in four-hour increments for $25.
Only non-motorized boats can use the dock. There will be no overnight storage of vehicles, trailers or boats, except for those used by the association and those that receive prior approval from the town, according to town documents.
The town will pay for maintenance, which should cost $25,000 a year, town engineer Jeff Buckalew said.
The $1.2 million project has been a long time coming.
Initially proposed in 2007, the center was expected to cost $1.5 million. Its construction was contingent upon a private group of boaters raising $500,000 to build it and another $1.5 million to be raised over the next two years for an endowment to support the park's operations.
After funding failed to materialize, Town Council agreed to spend $700,000 for the center's dock, restrooms and other facilities. The boaters said they would provide boats, oars and safety equipment, a portion of which would be available for public use.
Still, the private money did not come.
Donations never panned out, according to the nonprofit group created as the private half of the partnership. The group tallied just $20,000 to build a storage shed for the boats and equipment, according to its co-chairman John Rumsey.
With this in mind, council decided last year to build the center for its current cost. That was covered largely with proceeds from a special tax district used to build parks, improve roads, extend sewer service and other uses.
Some council members have chafed at the park's cost, which has increased by about $550,000 since it was approved in 2012.
Town manager Steve Riley said he has moved past the lack of private funding.
"We still ended up with a great community park," he said this summer.
Follow reporter Dan Burley at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.