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Recreation: Ceremonies at two parks harbingers of spring construction

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County will break ground Dec. 17 on two recreation facilities being built on Waccamaw Neck as part of its capital improvement plan.

A public ceremony at the site of a proposed recreation and senior center in Parkersville will begin at 9 a.m.

Celebrations will move to Litchfield at 10 a.m., where a second ceremony is scheduled for a tennis complex, to be constructed at a planned park off Ford Road.

The two long-awaited facilities will be among the first projects completed under the plan.

Though a number of Waccamaw Neck residents have been skeptical either project would ever be completed, the ceremonies are “evidence that [the plan] is on track and we are moving forward,” said Beth Goodale, the county’s recreation director.

Similar ceremonies will take place throughout the county as other projects are brought under way.

Construction on the Parkersville center and the tennis complex won’t start until spring, Goodale said, but county staff wanted to have the ceremonies now before Glen O’Connell leaves County Council at the end of the year.

O’Connell, who didn’t seek re-election this year, was part of getting the capital improvement plan on its way and pushed for both facilities to be included at the top of the project list.

“I’m really excited, because I think it’s a reflection of progress on this series of projects that started with approval of the CIP and all the steps we’ve gone through since then,” O’Connell said of the ceremonies.

“Particularly with the parks, there has been a lot of skepticism that it would ever really happen. I think this is a real statement that we’re serious, and I’m really pleased to be a part of it.”

The facilities, he added, are “badly needed and way overdue.”

The Parkersville center has been in the works for more than a decade and few are happier than Norman Reid to see that project moving forward. He’s been a leader in the effort to bring the center to the area and said it will make a big difference in a lot of lives.

“This is one of the communities that really haven’t had anything as far as a community center, a gymnasium or anything like that,” he said. “They’ve got one in Georgetown and Andrews, and even a little small one in Murrells Inlet, but we’ve never had one here on Waccamaw Neck that everybody can use.”

Facilities, such as swimming pools, are only available now on Waccamaw Neck to those who can afford to pay to access them at health centers and private clubs. That puts them out of reach for many local families.

Senior citizens especially will benefit from the center. The county closed its Pawleys Island senior center nearly three years ago due to low attendance. Area seniors who want to participate in programs and activities the county offers now have to take a bus to the center in Georgetown.

There were about a dozen seniors who utilized the Pawleys Island facility. The closing of an adult day care at Baskervill in January sent eight more seniors to the center in Georgetown who will be able to cut down on travel time by going to the Parkersville Center when it opens in early 2012.

The tennis complex will put 10 courts in Litchfield, something the county hopes will attract tournaments, creating economic benefits for the area.

A completion date hasn’t been set for the project.

These will be the first public tennis courts on Waccamaw Neck.

The addition will boost Waccamaw High School’s tennis program and open the sport up to a more diverse population, said James Brown, the boys tennis coach at the school.

“These courts are an opportunity for kids of all races, colors and creeds to play this wonderful sport, which is something they don’t have now,” he said. “Right now, you can’t play tennis unless you have the finances.”

The school’s teams have permission to use private courts around Waccamaw Neck. They play at Wachesaw Plantation during the season, Brown said, and practice at a court in someone’s backyard on Pawleys Island. They’ve also used courts at DeBordieu, Litchfield by the Sea and Litchfield Country Club.

The travel time required for students to go to courts at Wachesaw and DeBordieu can be “exhausting,” Brown said. If the student doesn’t have their own transportation, it’s a bigger problem.

“We’ve gotten used to it, but it is a burden,” he said.

That’s something Andie Stanford knows first hand. Her daughter, Allison, played tennis at Waccamaw from 2004 to 2007, and won two state singles titles.

“I did a lot of driving,” she said. “It takes a lot to stick with it. The child has to really like it and be dedicated.”

Stanford also plays in USTA adult leagues, so she said she’s also glad on a more personal level to hear public courts are opening and the sport will be accessible to more people on Waccamaw Neck.

Without public facilities, she said, many children wouldn’t have the opportunity to find out if they like tennis.

“It’s a way for the sport to grow in this area,” she said.

The Waccamaw High teams will start using the new courts at Litchfield when they open.

“We’re looking forward to it and we’ve been looking forward to it for a long time,” Brown said.

Georgetown County Council’s annual review of the capital improvement plan will be Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. during its regular meeting in council chambers.

The plan is available at georgetowncountysc.org.

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