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Recreation: Stables Park facilities take shape

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

One look at the buzz of activity on the site of the future Stables Park in Litchfield is enough to see big things are happening there.

On a daily basis, 40-50 people are all over the site in trucks and bulldozers, and swarming on buildings that are quickly taking form, rising up from the dirt and dust.

There’s a long way to go yet, but the work is going quickly and the park, which covers more than 110 acres, is on schedule to open late this summer, said Beth Goodale, the county’s director of Parks and Recreation.

The walls and roof are up on a tennis center adjacent to where 10 tennis courts (eight hard surface and two clay) are under construction. The center will house a clubhouse, locker rooms and restrooms, and have a patio porch that wraps all the way around.

An existing building on the property was originally intended to be converted into the tennis center, but it’s being used instead to house maintenance operations for all the parks on Waccamaw Neck.

Access issues made it less expensive to simply build a new structure, Goodale explained.

The first layer of pavement for the tennis courts is down and the 30 day wait before the next layer can go down is almost up. Prep work was going on this week for the net posts and fencing.

There’s room for a fireplace between the center and the courts, and space where a stadium court can be built. But for now, that space will be grassed and used for activities such as bocci and croquet.

Space for 10 additional courts is still woods, and will remain that way when the park opens. Staff has plans to use it for youth camps and camping.

On the other side of the park, four full-size multi-purpose fields, which will primarily be used for soccer, are in the works. The spaces, each bigger than a football field, have been prepared and grass is scheduled to be put down next week. A concession stand and restrooms are under construction.

Equipment has been purchased for the fields, scoreboards should arrive any day, and seven soccer tournaments have already been booked at the park for 2012 and 2013. Goodale has also talked with the American Lacrosse Federation about tournaments and she hopes to partner with the group to have some league play.

Man-made ponds now dot the property and are starting to fill up. Goodale has plans for catch-and-release fishing there.

“I talked to DNR last week and they’re going to hook me up with the fish people,” Goodale said. There’s also the possibility the largest ponds can be used to teach canoeing. Classes have been conducted on Pawleys Creek, but the pond would offer a “controlled space” to work with, she said.

Though the ponds are still surrounded by dirt, it’s easy to imagine how they’ll look when grass is planted, adding appeal to the park and improving the view for neighbors.

“There was nothing but a sand path through here, not even grass. The view from that yard has been really enhanced,” Goodale said looking at a house in Litchfield Country Club that borders the park and overlooks a pond near Stables Drive. “Now they’ll have a view of a pond and nothing else but pretty trees.”

Oak trees all over the property will be left standing, and that’s one thing that sets the park apart, Goodale said.

“You go to so many parks and they’re mostly open space. You might have a tree or two, but it’s nothing like this,” she said.

Pointing to a cluster of trees near a pond and adjacent to a Carolina bay that will be left in its natural state, Goodale says there are plans to put picnic tables beneath the boughs. The county recently received a grant to build that picnic area.

One improvement residents may have noticed is on the dirt portion of Petigru Drive, which runs along the west side of the park. Goodale said she still wouldn’t recommend traveling it without four-wheel drive. It’s the construction entrance for the park and is in better shape than it was. A few months ago, craters made it impassable.

The road is one of the area’s oldest, having been around since the 1700s as part of the Old Kings Highway, according to information the county was provided with when it obtained the property.

“It’s not great yet, but it’s not bad,” she said of the road’s condition. When construction at the park is done, “our guys will get back out here and do additional cleaning and grading and the county will maintain it until it gets improved.”

Plans for a dog park at Stables Park are still in the works. Funding for that project hasn’t been located, but it’s one of a number of projects under consideration for funding with a proposed 1-cent capital sales tax. The tax will go before voters in a referendum in November.

The dog park is planned as a fenced space by a pond with separate areas for small dogs and large dogs.

“We haven’t done all the details yet, but there’s a lot of interest here and in Georgetown,” Goodale said.

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