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Capital projects: No shortage of park work despite sales tax defeat

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Recreation facility construction is going full steam ahead, members of the Georgetown County Parks and Recreation Commission learned Monday. It was a different story for members of the Georgetown County Library Board on Tuesday.

Recreation director Beth Goodale reported on progress and plans at nine locations, including three on the Waccamaw Neck, during the commission’s monthly meeting at Beck Center.

Money for the work comes from the county’s Capital Improvement Program, funded by impact fee collections. Voters turned down a proposed 1-cent sales tax in November that would have funded 11 new recreation initiatives along with dredging projects at Georgetown’s port and Murrells Inlet, paving and improving roads and building fire stations and libraries.

New libraries were proposed in Sampit-Santee and Georgetown with revenue from the proposed 1-cent sales tax, but the Waccamaw branch library, its funding already secured, was to be expanded with an additional $2.8 million.

Without those funds, Dwight McInvaill, library director, said the Waccamaw branch will be scaled back.

“There will be no heritage center,” he said after the library board met Tuesday. McInvaill said there would be enough money from the county’s Capital Improvement Plan for a 16,000 square foot branch on Willbrook Boulevard. Architect Michael Walker will work on a floor plan based on the available funding.

McInvaill said ground-breaking ceremonies, scheduled for Feb. 2, will likely be delayed until spring, closer to the beginning of construction.

The library will be getting a new bookmobile early next year, and half of its hours will be dedicated to the Sampit-Santee area with other visits to Plantersville and the Waccamaw Neck.

Recreation projects proposed with the 1-cent sales tax revenues were by and large additions to existing facilities that are either complete or under way.

Goodale said work is on schedule at Choppee, Pleasant Hill and Andrews. Earth moving has started at Olive Park in Andrews. She said long-range plans for East Bay Park and facilities at Howard School are under consideration with the city of Georgetown.

The Waccamaw Regional Recreation Center on Parkersville Road should be ready for occupancy by January, she said. Construction on Retreat Park is on schedule for the opening of baseball season, and Stables Park needed some tweaking during the five weekends it hosted a youth football tournament.

Waccamaw Recreation Center is coming in slightly under its $4.4 million budget and completes a decade-long effort by members of the community to have a facility to serve its residents at Parkersville Park.

The center will have recreation facilities, including a gymnasium, and activities for senior citizens. The county received a $350,000 grant from the state Office on Aging for the center.

While Retreat Park has similar amenities to the county’s 8 Oaks Park, a baseball and softball complex west of Georgetown on Highway 521, it’s a noticeably smaller version, dictated by the price of land on the Waccamaw Neck. Commission member Mark Hoeweler said Retreat Park has gotten the nickname “2 Oaks” around the Pawleys Island-Litchfield community.

Goodale said about 4,000 people visited Stables Park over five consecutive weekends of regional football tournament play. She reported getting positive feedback on the facility as the county made weekly adjustments for the larger-than-expected crowds. A new gravel parking lot was built after the first weekend. Board Member Mark Avant said traffic was so heavy it took him 25 minutes to go down the dirt road from Martin Luther King Drive to the parking lot at mid-day. He suggested more portable toilets, more bleachers and a rope or fence to keep fans away from the playing field during games. Concessions completely sold out on game days. Goodale said sales reached an “unbelievable volume” on both hot and cool days.

Spring tournament marketing for Stables Park is going very well, Goodale said, with just one weekend remaining available in April.

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