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City gets $500K grant for riverfront park project

Phase 1 to be completed within 12 months

Posted: November 15, 2018 5:54 p.m.
Updated: November 16, 2018 1:00 a.m.
C-I file photo/

A rendering from 2017 by KBS Associates LLC of what the city’s proposed Wateree Riverfront Environmental Park might look like when it is completed. Staff hopes Phase I of the project will be completed in about 12 months.

Residents of and visitors to the city of Camden may get their first chance to enjoy the city’s proposed 24-acre Wateree Riverfront Environmental Park as soon as a year from now. That is in part thanks to a $500,000 Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) grant made possible by the U.S. National Park Service (NPS). It will be administrated through the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (SCPRT).

The park will be created atop a former wastewater treatment plant lagoon that was drained shortly after the city’s current wastewater treatment plant was built next door.

The announcement of the grant came during Camden City Council’s meeting Tuesday night as council unanimously -- with Councilwoman Joanna Craig absent -- passed a resolution formally accepting the grant. It is a matching grant, but unlike others where the city either matches a portion or all of the grant fund amount, the city is actually allocating more money than the grant itself. According to the resolution, the grant requires a city match of $628,252.

City Manager Mel Pearson said council already allocated those funds in the current fiscal year’s budget.

In a press release issued during the meeting, Pearson said the city actually allocated $800,000 as matching funds with the intent of seeking additional grant funding for the project.

Pearson said city staff has been working on plans for the project for the better part of a year.

In early 2016, the city announced that it would be obtaining technical assistance for the project from the NPS through the agency’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program. The city held a series of public hearings that spring to get input on what residents and others might like to see at the proposed park. In September 2016, The NPS’ Josh Moore provided council and the public with an update on plans to convert the lagoon into the park with conservation, environmental education, wildlife habitat creation and recreational opportunities as goals.

The following year, the city hired Ken B. Simmons, who also designed the city’s Tennis Center and Pickleball Plaza, to design the park. In September 2017, Simmons presented a formal plan for the lagoon-to-park conversion.

Ultimately, the park will turn the lagoon into a combination of water features and wetlands, and include a walking trail with bridges, a deep water canoe “trail” and docks, observatories, a small waterfall providing the parks’ main water source, a boat ramp on the river, approximately 120 total parking spaces and, possibly, an environmental center for educational/meeting purposes.

In the city’s press release Tuesday night, SCPRT Grant Programs Manager Amy Blinson said Camden’s plan for the lagoon transformation provides “close-to-home” recreation opportunities.

In other business Tuesday:

• Council unanimously passed second and final reading of an ordinance authorizing the issuance and sale of up to $7 million in combined public utility system improvement revenue bonds. The bond funds will be used to cover $6.701 million in electric and traffic signal improvements, including undergrounding, in the Kirkwood community, upgrades along York Street between Ehrenclou Drive and Broad Street, upgrades to the intersection and traffic signals East DeKalb and Mill streets, and upgrade overhead electric lines along Springdale Drive between Knights Hill Road and Springdale Plaza.

• Council held an executive session to discuss and then unanimously passed a resolution accepting the donation of 193 Stowers St. from Audrey and Winston Barksdale. The lot is across from Kirkwood Park. Audrey Barksdale said her parents -- notably her late father, former councilman Clifton Alexander -- were very tied into the Kirkwood community. She asked the city that whatever is done to enhance the property be done in her parents’ names, to which council appeared amenable.

Council also heard a presentation from City Planner Shawn Putnam on the first five of nine elements of the city’s revision of its 10-year comprehensive plan. The C-I will report on that presentation in Tuesday’s edition.

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