Is West Ashley Becoming Park City, USA?

City and county quickly expanding greenspace West of the Ashley

Several park projects have been completed or in the works for West Ashley.

Everywhere you look, it seems a new waterfront park is popping up in West Ashley.

Over the past year, multiple county and city parks have either opened, had major work done to them, or land for them has been purchased.

It’s getting so that the part of town formerly known as “West Trashley” may soon come to be known as “Park City, USA.”

City projects like Northbridge Park on the West Ashley side of the river were completed last year, Magnolia Community Garden, originally a Charleston Parks Conservancy project at the corner of Magnolia Road and Sycamore Avenue, has been conveyed to the city.

Major work will soon be completed to the Higgins Pier Park at the river’s end of the West Ashley Bikeway. And a third waterfront park on Bender Street in the Maryville-Ashleyville neighborhood could be completed as soon as this year following successful negotiations with the owners, or condemnation.

Work could also be completed this year on a park at the end of the West Ashley Greenway near Porter Gaud that could link with a dedicated bike lane over the Ashley, a contentious county project.

The county has a fourth waterfront park bordered by Old Towne Road, Charles Towne Landing, and the Ashley River that will soon be converted to full public access and not just for special events.

West Ashleyian Brady Quirk-Garvan, a fundraiser for the parks conservancy, said the increase in parks represents “a dramatic change for those who say government moves too slowly.”

Quirk-Garvan added that for all the negatives associated with  “development,” it’s a very positive sign local leaders are doing so much to protect land for generations to come. “And it’s smart to do so before West Ashley gets more crowded.”

Harry Lesene, the executive director of the conservancy, said there is “reinvestment” in parks all over the area, including a big downtown park on the former site of the Ansonborough Homes public housing site coming to fruition.

City parks director Jerry Ebeling said the profusion of waterfront parks in West Ashley has been a part of Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr.’s vision to provide waterfront access for “average Joes” who can’t afford to live on the water.

Riley was very successful in this matter on the peninsula, and seems to have included expanding water access in West Ashley on his “bucket list” for his last year in office.

The city this year has increased its holding for future parks, according to Ebeling. The biggest chunk Ebeling said was the 200 acres the city purchased near the southern end of Bees Ferry Road, Bear Swamp.

While not included in the city’s current five-year plan, it will soon become a priority because of its location near an enormous future park the county is planning to erect nearby.

In 2009, the county purchased the 1,600-plus acre Long Savannah property for a future park, and two years later purchased the adjoining Bulow Hunt Club plantations, bringing the total site’s combined size to nearly 2,000 acres.

County parks planning director Julie Hensley said when completed it would become the largest park in the county’s stable.

Hensley said her department is currently going trough a process to prioritize projects for the next years. Included in that process will be an investigation into a trial balloon Riley has floated regarding linking all the Ashley River parks via a city-county-state raised riverfront walk.

Hensley is hopeful that voters in 2016 will renew the “greenbelt” tax for even more robust future parks.

The city and county seem to be working in concert, parks-wise, with the city planning to extend and pave the existing greenway. At the end of the greenway, the county has received close to 90 acres, Limehouse Point, in a donation, along the Stono River.

The city is currently in negotiations for yet another waterfront park, this time along Wappoo Road along the Stono River, according to City Councilman Bill Moody.

The several-acre property is the former home of WPAL, the radio station, which was the only one whose antennae survived Hurricane Hugo’s winds and was the only local station on air through the disaster.

Moody recently walked the 900-foot dock out past the antennae and said there were plenty of spots for floating docks for kayakers and other paddlers to put in.

Moody said the city may be able to pay for the site with savings realized at the end of fiscal year budgeting, like if gas prices remain cheap.

The councilman said parks are especially important in West Ashley, since it was largely developed in the 1940s and ‘50s, when neighborhoods were constructed as stand alone developments with little thought for issues like greenspace and connectivity.

January 21, 2015 By Bill Davis |