Design development, construction drawings and permitting have been completed for Ashley River Park (ARP). This project is ready to go out for construction bids as soon as the voter-approved 2016 Bond funding, currently held up by a lawsuit, is available. The unique 85 acre riverfront property will offer something for all ages and abilities with major features including trails, fishing pond, event spaces, playground, splash fountain, dog parks, ropes course, climbing wall, picnic areas and kayak launch. A 12-15 month construction period is anticipated.
Naming rights and partnership opportunities are currently available through our partners at Friends of Dorchester County Parks.
The ARP property was purchased in 2012, at a cost of $1.45 million, with proceeds from the 2010 voter-approved $5 million bond referendum for parks and conservation.
In September of 2014, Dorchester County hired its first Parks and Recreation Department staff member to oversee this project and to develop a countywide parks and recreation system.
As part of the 2015 County Parks and Recreation Master Plan Update process, Parks and Recreation staff solicited public feedback on the ARP project and other county park and recreation initiatives. The major themes of feedback regarding ARP were related to the need for event spaces, multi-use green space, trails, fishing, and waterway access.
In June of 2015, preliminary investigative and regulatory work commenced related to wetland delineation and verification, flood zones, utility easements, and associated surveying. It quickly became clear that all of these factors would create significant challenges to park design and development.
In September of 2016, the county signed a contract with Seamon Whiteside and Associates to provide master planning services for ARP.
2017 - 2019
Public feedback gathered in 2015 and investigative work from 2015 was incorporated into the updated Ashley River Park Master Plan. County Council approved this plan in January of 2017.
In February of 2017, the county signed a contract with Seamon Whiteside and Associates to provide the remaining project consulting services: permitting, design, bidding and construction administration.
Schematic design proceeded at a steady pace considering site challenges and the county submitted for the project wetland permit in December of 2017. In January of 2018 the wetland permit was placed on public notice. Comments were received in March of 2018 and response to those comments is pending. Permit issuance is anticipated in Summer 2018.
At the direction of staff, the consultant is designing the park to achieve a "no-rise" certification regarding floodplain impacts. Modeling has been run at key design milestones to ensure this achievement.
Design and construction document development have accelerated, with the consultant appearing before the County Technical Review Committee in April of 2018.
The estimated cost of construction is $8-$9M. Phasing of park development is likely.
In November of 2016, County Council placed parks and libraries capital bond referendum on the ballot. Voters passed the referendum by over 61%. A portion of the $13 million designated for park development will be utilized as the primary construction funding source for the ARP project.
Unfortunately, Dorchester County Taxpayers Association filed a lawsuit claiming the referendum was invalid due to libraries and parks being included in the same ballot question.
In December of 2017, First Circuit Court Judge Edgar W. Dickson dismissed the lawsuit, but the plaintiffs immediately asked for reconsideration. The motion for reconsideration was promptly denied by Judge Dickson. The plaintiffs then filed a formal appeal in March of 2017, and the appeal is waiting to be heard by the South Carolina Supreme Court.
The SC Supreme Court heard the case in October of 2018. A ruling has not yet been issued by the Court.
The bonds to fund construction for the Ashley River Park and other County facilities cannot be sold with pending litigation.