Bennettsville unveils proposed multi-phase recreation project
In the future, the city of Bennettsville could have a splash pad, a Boys and Girls Club and a dog park.
Last week at a special called Bennettsville City Council meeting, members approved 4-1 the concept of a multi-phase recreation project and authorized staff to develop detailed plans for phase one and two for council approval.
Mayor Heath Harpe and Council members Tyron Abraham, Sandy Donaldson and Allen Taylor voted in favor of the plan.
Council member Bernice Johnson voted no and noted she did not oppose the plan but the timing of the vote when not all members of the board were present.
Council members Jean Quick and Wilhelmina Pegues were not at the meeting.
Harpe proposed the multiphase recreation project, which would be located on the upper side of Lake Paul Wallace near the former Eastside High School. Currently, AMI Kids is using the lower portion of the school.
In an interview with the Herald-Advocate on Tuesday, Harpe said this is a project that the city will invest in over the next several years.
The plan is to concentrate on the first two phases and identify funding for them.
Then, Harpe said, the council would greenlight the project. After that, they would work on funding for phase three.
He added they planned to be creative with funding by bringing in community partners and finding grants and foundation awards.
"We feel the time is right," Harpe said. "The community needs recreation options. We don't look at this as a Bennettsville project. We look at it as a project for the county as well as visitors."
At the meeting, Harpe presented the project in five phases.
PHASE ONE AND TWO
Phase one would use the existing park beside the school with a fenced in football field. It would be split into two sections for a dog park for large and small dogs. Also the playground equipment would be updated.
Phase two would leave the upper section of the school but the rest would be torn down. A splash pad along with a building with bathrooms, lockers and a canteen would be added.
The grassy area would be used for an open-air amphitheater. Harpe said they could have outdoor concerts, movies and church services.
PHASES THREE AND FOUR
Phase three would use the saved upper portion of the school, which has an auditorium, gym and existing classroom space. It would be used to open a Boys and Girls Club.
"We would like to have a connection to the past," Harpe said. "I feel we need to tie into the history of the site."
Phase four involved moving across the street to the old Camp Horizon. Harpe suggested clearing the trees all the way up to where the spillway comes in to build a boardwalk and fishing pier.
Once things are cleared, the plan would be to build a synthetic rock wall where the spillway is so the city could have its own waterfall. A cinderblock hut on the site could be used for restrooms.
Another goal is to have concrete campsites with water and electric hookups.
"These are things that will bring people," he said.
Phase five would connect all of this to downtown. The Lake Paul Wallace Authority has received a grant for their trail project from Parks, Recreation, and Tourism. Officials would like to rehab the old walking trail and dredge the creek to make it wider.
Harpe noted the property where the school is belongs to Marlboro County School District. City officials plan to talk with the school district about the building and options.
Council member Bernice Johnson thought what was presented was good but felt there were greater needs in the city. Some needs she named included cleaning up dilapidated structures and properties, storm preparation and high utility bills.
"We have to see about the needs in the city," Johnson said. "We will be challenged as a city when all this stuff goes out to the public."
She said she was not against parks and recreation.
"I want our boys and girls to enjoy activities," she said.
Council member Tyron Abraham thought it was a great idea. He said some of the main things he has heard from residents are that activities are needed for youth.
"I think it is time," he said. "Our community needs something like this."
Abraham added he had seen where Marlboro County was listed as the worst in childhood obesity.
"We need things for our kids," he said. "You are touching on everything that we've always said we wanted."
Council member Sandy Donaldson agreed it was a great idea.
"The way the phases are, it is doable," she said. "With grants, we have to strike while we can and while the funds are available."
Council member Allen Taylor thought it was a wonderful project as well.
"It is something so doable and so good for our community. We all need to work together. This is a good project to start," he said.
Marlboro County Chamber President Brittany Jones said it was a quality of life project.
"We have to try to increase the quality of life here especially when you are trying to get businesses to come here," she said. "They can't tell their employees that they are going to move somewhere that has nothing."
She was excited about the Boys and Girls Club because as a member of the emergency management committee, she knew there weren't options for shelters.
Jones felt overall that they needed to make it a great place to live for the people who don't have the means to leave the city.
"Just because other people can go to the beach on the weekends or travel to Hartsville, some people can't and they should be able to enjoy home."