Beaufort News

Beaufort County will spend $3M on more open park space. How would you use it?

Another 100 acres in Beaufort County should soon be available for the public to roam after county officials approved buying the land with taxpayer dollars.

On Monday, County Council approved buying the Lady’s Island property known as Pineview. The 108-acre property off Sams Point Road includes access to a tidal creek. It could be a place for kayaking, hiking and horseback riding, though the public will have a say in how the land is eventually used.

The deal is still being finalized, but the county is expected to pay $2.98 million for the land from owner Pineview Farms LLC. The corporation is registered to John Trask Jr., state records show. The appraised value of the property was $3.4 million in December 2018.

Supporters say preserving the property will help relieve crowding issues in the fast-growing community between Beaufort and St. Helena Island.

“There aren’t that many properties left on Lady’s Island of that size,” said Paul Sommerville, whose County Council district includes much of Lady’s Island. “Really and truly, it’s either this one or none.”

The property owner agreed to donate $50,000 that could eventually be used for the park’s development, Sommerville said.

About 15 county parks are already on a prioritized list in some stage of planning and development, passive park manager Stefanie Nagid said. Some current projects include an interpretive center and picnic pavilion being built at Fort Fremont on St. Helena Island, trail construction at Crystal Lake Park on Lady’s Island, and a bird-watching blind and picnic area at Widgeon Point Preserve south of the Broad River Bridge.

Once Pineview is ready to be planned, public workshops will be held for residents to offer ideas.

For “the people who are most going to be using that property, what is it they want to see there?” Nagid asked.

The property will be restricted to low-key “passive” recreational uses — so no organized sports or concerts.

About 1,850 feet on Sams Point Road will keep passing drivers from ever seeing a housing development, said Barbara Holmes of the Beaufort County Open Land Trust. Pineview also includes freshwater wetlands and 2,200 feet on Rock Springs Creek, she said.

“It’s located in a pretty densely populated area, and people won’t have to go very far to use the park,” Holmes said.

Money for the deal will come from the county’s taxpayer-funded Rural and Critical Lands Program, which seeks to shield properties from development. Council members also approved new guidelines for the land preservation program Monday after previous rules had lapsed.

In 20 years of the program, Beaufort County has spent more than $130 million to preserve about 25,000 acres as parks, conservation areas or to maintain Lowcountry scenery. Properties are either bought outright or the development rights are purchased or donated, with deals negotiated by the Open Land Trust.

Beaufort County voters approved another $25 million for the land preservation program in 2018.

Other Lady’s Island projects under the program include 10-acre Whitehall Park on the Beaufort River across from downtown and Crystal Lake Park, which is home to a boardwalk, 7-acre lake and the Open Land Trust offices.

The $5.45 million deal for Whitehall — of which $4.37 million came from county preservation money — was criticized by some as a bad deal for taxpayers but was approved in 2018 amid broad public support. Officials are developing a conceptual plan for the park.

Across Rock Springs Creek from Pineview is Holly Hall Plantation, 515 acres protected by the Nature Conservancy.

Stephen Fastenau covers northern Beaufort County as a reporter for The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet, where he has worked since 2010 and been recognized with state and national awards. He studied journalism and political science at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and lives in Beaufort.
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