Improvements to a Daufuskie Island park that some residents believe should have come decades ago likely will begin later this year.
Beaufort County attorney Josh Gruber says work on the 3-acre tract, which is currently undeveloped open space, could begin within about three months. However, it remains unclear what the $25,000 facelift will entail.
"Those are the final details that are currently being discussed with the state and other local interests," Gruber said. "However, the last idea that was discussed was constructing a covered picnic shelter with a poured-concrete pad that could be used for family gatherings and other similar type events."
Land for the park is off Frances Jones Boulevard, next to one of the island's three trash-collection areas. Residents dump trash into four industrial-sized bins that the county hauls off the island.
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The park will be discussed Feb. 1 at the Mary Fields School at 1:30 p.m.
The county bought about 10 acres on Daufuskie's south side in 1991 and used proceeds from a $25,000 S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism grant to reimburse itself. Deed restrictions placed on about 3 acres mandate it be used as a park.
But last year, state recreation officials told the county it had not met the grant's terms because the $25,000 should have been spent to provide recreation. The county contends it met the grant requirements.
"Rather than attempt to fight the state as to the status of the grant, the county has agreed to provide additional improvements to the park site in an amount of no more than $25,000 that will be used to satisfy the outstanding grant requirements," Gruber wrote in an email.
Marion Edmonds, the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism's communications director, said Friday that the grant issue is "still being resolved at this time."
For some Daufuskie residents, construction of park amenities would mark the fulfillment of a 22-year-old county pledge.
Island resident Aaron Crosby, who serves on the Daufuskie Island Council, acknowledges $25,000 won't build much of a park, especially when materials and labor must be hauled in by barge. But on an island where most recreation occurs at the beach, he believes every little bit helps.
"The general claim is, 'County, you committed to doing this 20 years ago. Why don't you go ahead and do it?'" Crosby said Friday. "And maybe in doing it, we can set a tone for parks and recreation over here that involve more than just water."
Meanwhile, the county's master plan calls for up to $300,000 in future improvements at the Daufuskie park. Funding isn't yet available for that effort, Gruber said.
Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.