Charleston Parks Conservancy’s Plans for a Park and Urban Horticultural Center Move Forward
CHARLESTON, S.C. –The Charleston Parks Conservancy cleared another hurdle in its plans for a new park and urban horticultural center in West Ashley. Charleston County Council approved the request to conserve the property through Charleston County’s Greenbelt Program at its meeting Aug. 16.
Public support for the project helped reverse the Finance Committee’s rejection of the urban greenspace preservation proposal earlier this month. After receiving a flood of emails and phone calls from the West Ashley residents who live near the property offering their support for the project, County Council reversed the decision.
The 3.7-acre property at the corner of Sycamore Avenue and Magnolia Road in West Ashley is currently a vacant, overgrown lot but now has the potential to become a neighborhood park, including Charleston’s first environmentally friendly urban horticultural center. A playground, community vegetable garden and a display garden are also envisioned for the site.
“This would really be a place where kids and adults can have a hands-on experience learning about collecting rainwater, composting and recycling, and growing the food that ends up on their supper table,” says Jim Martin, executive director of the Charleston Parks Conservancy.
The urban greenspace preservation project morphed from a collaborative effort among a group of concerned residents surrounding the property, the Mount Pleasant Land Conservancy and the Charleston Parks Conservancy.
Adam Webb, who has lived in the neighborhood for about six years, got involved with the project early on and has been one of many voicing support for an urban horticultural center and how it will benefit the community.
“What it will bring to the West Ashley community is indescribable. If this becomes the national benchmark that it has the potential of becoming, it will be a highlight of the area,” says Webb, adding how the project will revitalize the area, attract families and increase home values.
Webb too has been impressed by the local residents and business owners who wrote letters, sent emails and attended meetings. “It’s truly amazing and humbling to see what you can do when can get your community to come together for a common goal.”
At this time there is no concrete plan for the site. Martin says the Parks Conservancy will be working closely with the community to gather feedback and input on elements of the design that will best support the community’s needs in a small neighborhood park. “The urban horticulture center is a new concept for the wider Charleston community. We anticipate it being a model educational experience that makes sense in our ever evolving urban environment,” Martin says.
He anticipates the project taking about five years to fully complete with design work beginning next year. In the meantime, the Conservancy is looking to begin using part of the property for a community vegetable garden and clean up an existing cinderblock building for use as temporary classroom space.
Even though the Mount Pleasant Land Conservancy is based in Mount Pleasant, its focus has been on preserving undeveloped parcels of land in the greater urban environment. In 2010, the Land Conservancy took on a lead role in bringing qualified projects to the Charleston County Greenbelt funding process. Once approved, the Land Conservancy manages the perpetual conservation easements on the projects they are successful with in the program. The program gives access to the $1.2 million in Greenbelt funds for projects in Charleston County that are 30 acres or less.
The Land Conservancy looks for a credible and qualified organization to manage the property once it is purchased through the Greenbelt Program. The land will be placed under a conservation easement to protect the use and development.
“From my perspective this project embodies everything that both our organizations where created to accomplish,” says John Girault, executive director of the Mount Pleasant Land Conservancy. “This is a collaboration that has aligned community needs with two local nonprofit organizations working toward a greater quality of life through beautification, connectivity and preservation of our natural world.”
About the Charleston Parks Conservancy
Headed by prominent horticulturalist Jim Martin, the Charleston Parks Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to further beautifying City of Charleston parks and green spaces. With the help of its Park Angels volunteer force, the Conservancy seeks to rally community support and pride behind the effort to create a lasting movement. For more information about or to support the Charleston Parks Conservancy, please visit www.charlestonparksconservancy.org.