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Best ideas from four firms make up recreation plan

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

After a two-day workshop last week, county officials are optimistic that they’re closing in on plans to build new recreation facilities throughout the county.

“I would hope we could see some construction activity in the first quarter of next year,” said County Administrator Sel Hemingway.

The workshop on July 1 and 2 put the county closer to that goal, formalizing plans for where facilities will be located.

A five-hour discussion that focused on Waccamaw Neck projects placed a tennis complex on property in Litchfield that was once a riding stable, one of four parcels that will comprise a new Waccamaw regional park. The stables will be converted into a clubhouse.

An environmental interpretative center should go near a Carolina bay on a 36-acre tract that was donated to the county late last year to become part of the park. Multi-purpose fields for soccer and football are also planned for that area.

Baseball fields will go at multiple locations, including Retreat Park and Waccamaw Elementary School.

These are plans county staff have been making since they started buying property for parks about 18 months ago, but they wanted to keep their options open, giving flexibility to the four firms hired to plan new recreation facilities.

“We aren’t married to any particular situation. If there is a better solution, we want to look at it,” Beth Goodale, Georgetown County’s director of parks and recreation, told the firms.

Each firm spent last month drafting their version of the layout of facilities for county staff and recreation commissioners.

Those officials then picked aspects from each plan to be compiled into a conceptual plan for the facilities.

The process was “fascinating,” Goodale said. “Everybody’s got different interpretations. We wouldn’t have gotten them all if we hadn’t done it this way. We would have gotten one firm’s viewpoint.

“Now we can pick over components and trace them from one drawing to another. I think it will be an interesting result.”

Hemingway said he was “pleasantly surprised” by how well the process worked and the ability of the firms to work with each other and receive criticism.

Preliminary drawings for conceptual plans for each of the county’s four regions should be done this month. The four regions of the county will be divided among the firms. SGA Architecture of Pawleys Island will be in charge of the Waccamaw plan.

Once the preliminary drawings are approved, a full color rendering will be made, Hemingway said. That will have to go before County Council for review, then to the public for input at community meetings.

There are also cost estimates and budgetary work to be taken care of, and approval by council.

After the design process and public input period, Hemingway said plans are to move ahead with construction of some of the projects that can be finished quickly.

Because of a delay in hiring someone to plan the facilities, the county is already a full year behind on construction. Last year, tennis courts in Litchfield were projected to be finished this summer.

In addition to the courts and ball fields, the plan completed this month should include a splash area, picnic areas, walking trails, nature parks and a dog park.

“Every time we go out to that property, we see people from the [Litchfield] country club and River Club walking their dogs out there, so I think a dog park will be a natural fit,” Goodale said.

Those items have been on the agenda from the beginning, Goodale said, but the county wanted to get its priority projects placed first.

Recommendations about where entrances and exits at the park site should go will also be part of the plan. The group discussed possibilities during the workshop, but nothing was formalized.

Access off Ford Road and Pettigru Drive were discussed, as well as Parkersville Road.

“Our dream is to punch Parkersville all the way through, but we don’t think we can depend on that right now,” said Hemingway.

Another topic was the likelihood of getting a traffic signal installed at Ford Road, if it is made the primary entrance.

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