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Recreation: Work begins at Litchfield park

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

A year ago Waccamaw Neck residents and Georgetown County officials lined up with gold-painted shovels to move the first bits of earth at two important sites: a park to be developed in Litchfield and the future home of a recreation center at Parkersville Park.

It was a day all had long been waiting for, and more waiting was to come. There wasn’t much visible activity on the projects in the year following the ceremonies, but after next month there won’t be any question that progress is being made.

Site work started this week at Stables Park, and construction of buildings on the property and a concession stand at what will eventually be soccer fields is scheduled to start Jan. 13, said Beth Goodale, county recreation director.

Construction at the Waccamaw Regional Recreation Center in Parkersville should start at the end of the month.

The park is scheduled to open between late August and mid-September next year and the center will open on its heels in December.

“We’re very excited to have these projects under way,” Goodale said. “One of the things we’ve been so looking forward to at Stables Park, in addition to field capacity, is we’ll also be able to answer the call for tennis.”

The recreation department has had a lot of interest in tennis programs for everyone from kids to senior citizens, but there aren’t any public courts on the Waccamaw Neck. The tennis teams at Waccamaw High School uses private courts around Waccamaw Neck for practice and matches.

The first phase of the park plan includes construction of 10 tennis courts. Once they open, the team will start using those courts instead.

“We’ve also spoken with the athletic director about a potential tennis component as part of the gym class programming,” Goodale said. That will open the sport to a wider range of kids.

“We’re already exploring a lot of opportunities that will open up when we have tennis facilities,” she added.

Economic opportunities are also anticipated with the park’s opening.

“We’re excited about not only the facilities and being able to serve the citizens on the Waccamaw Neck, but the fact that tennis and soccer facilities are being designed and constructed in a way that we will be able to attract tournaments and visitors from outside the county,” said County Administrator Sel Hemingway.

A tournament is already scheduled for the summer at a softball complex under construction in Georgetown. The county is working to secure other tournaments.

County Council awarded bids on Tuesday for “vertical construction” at Stables Park and for a general contractor for the recreation center. For each project, 11 bids submitted. Walker Engineering and Construction of Pawleys Island got the Stables Park job with a low bid of $915,002. Construction of ball fields will be awarded under a different contract.

The recreation center job went to the Palmetto Corp. of Conway for $3.7 million.

One of the biggest advantages to the center’s opening will be the availability of a gymnasium for recreation team sports.

“Right now we’re very dependent on the schools and that gets hard, especially during basketball season when they’re needing those facilities as well,” Goodale said.

“The other piece is we’ll finally have a nice program space where the congregate dining program can be brought back to Pawleys Island.”

The program for senior citizens offers nutritious meals five days a week, along with programming for health, education and entertainment.

“It gives them a place to socialize,” Goodale said.

The program takes place at five locations in the county, but the Waccamaw Neck location closed several years ago due to low attendance. But the space also didn’t offer much opportunity for programming, Goodale said. The nearest program location for Waccamaw Neck seniors now is in Georgetown.

The new center will also have fitness equipment for seniors, and programming to teach about topics including diabetes education and chronic disease self management.

Goodale has already started getting calls from people concerned about traffic on Ford Road resulting from construction at Stables Park. She assures residents that’s not the only construction entrance. Petigru Drive and Gillman Road will also be used, keeping any one road from being overburdened.

For unpaved roads being used by construction traffic, the contractor is required to use dust control measures as needed and repair any damage done to the roads by construction traffic.

She also assures residents that construction won’t keep the farmer’s market from taking place at Parkersville Park in the summer, and tree buffers at both parks will remain in place, with more greenery to be added.

“We hope the neighbors will be as excited as we are,” Goodale said. “I’ve looked at some studies and information, some for as close as Charleston, and they say property values should appreciate anywhere from 10 to 30 percent from being in close proximity to a park like this.”

Council will receive a report on recreation projects scheduled throughout the county at its next meeting in January. The update will address work schedules and actual project costs compared to budgeted costs.

“By that time most of the projects will be bid, so we should have a real good handle for what the costs of projects would be,” Hemingway said.

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