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Popular Whitehall Park on Lady’s Island — closed for eight months for improvements — was expected to reopen to pedestrian and bicycle traffic this week following more than $2 million wort...
Popular Whitehall Park on Lady’s Island — closed for eight months for improvements — was expected to reopen to pedestrian and bicycle traffic this week following more than $2 million worth of upgrades, including a new lighted causeway to the Beaufort River and a boardwalk offering direct pedestrian access from Sea Island Parkway.
The park at 120 Whitehall Drive with 200-year-old live oak trees offers wildlife viewing, especially multiple bird species, in addition to panoramic views of the Beaufort River marshlands, area bridges and downtown Beaufort. It had been closed for improvements since July 1.
One of the new features is a lighted and paved multiple-use pathway — it’s the old U.S. Highway 21 — that leads to the water’s edge. The 9.72-acre passive park will be open from dawn to dusk. But at night, those on foot or bicycle will be allowed access to the portion of the park with the causeway, which leads to a viewing platform on the edge of the marsh.
Another major change is a 280-foot-long, 10-foot-wide timber boardwalk that now connects the sidewalk parallel to Sea Island Parkway or Highway 21 to the multi-use pathway inside the park. The boardwalk had been completed for months, with passersby eager to try it out, but a board blocked access while the improvements inside the park continued.
“I think there’s going to be some pent up demand with folks wanting access,” Beaufort Mayor Stephen Murray said.
The park was expected to be open to foot traffic — but not vehicle traffic — by the end of Thursday, said Stefanie Nagid, Beaufort County’s manager of passive parks.
“We are super thrilled to be able to open the park back up and I really hope visitors enjoy the new amenities,” Nagid said.
Parking and a new pavilion with bathrooms were constructed as part of the $1.7 million project that also included installing new fencing, picnic tables, trash bins and pet waste stations. Beaufort County, which owns the park, took care of that work.
The city of Beaufort was responsible for the $500,000 boardwalk that now connects pedestrian traffic along Sea Island Parkway to the park.
In an agreement with the county, the city will handle maintenance of the entire park going forward. As with other city parks, Whitehall will be available to rent for events, said Linda Roper, the city’s director of Downtown Operations and Community Services.
The Beaufort County Open Land Trust will handle tree maintenance. The Friends of Whitehall Park, which formed to preserved the land, also will work with the city and county on volunteer activities and fundraisers.
Whitehall Park, Nagid said, has “full connectivity” now to Woods Memorial Bridge and residential and shopping areas.
A second phase is planned that includes the installation of a pier and a floating dock so people kayaking on the water can tie up and visit the park, Nagid said. The dock will be for non-motorized boats only. That work is planned in 2024.
People can use the park for all sorts of reasons, Nagid says. That includes bird watching. September’s Hurricane Ian destroyed a bald eagle nest but the young eagles still are in the area, Nagid says. Woodpeckers also nest in the trees in the park.
“It’s really a great opportunity for people to see some unique and interesting species up close,” she said.
People who dine in downtown Beaufort will be able to walk across the bridge in the evening to enjoy the view of Beaufort from the Lady’s Island side of the river, Nagid added.
Electricity and water and sewer still need to be connected and until they are the pavilion will not be open and the park will remain closed to vehicles.
On Thursday, city and county staff were expected to team up to set up picnic tables and benches and pull down the plywood blocking access to the boardwalk, Nagid said.
In 2018, Beaufort County bought the 9.72 acres from Whitehall Development, which had been planning high-density housing on 19 acres, for $5.45 million. The project had sparked opposition from residents and Whitehall Development later downgraded its size. The housing project, which is adjacent to the park, now includes 21 homes, eight townhouses and five mixed-used properties. About half of the lots have been sold and construction has begun on a few houses, said Michael Mark, a Realtor representing Whitehall Development.
This story was originally published March 2, 2023, 12:31 PM.
By Delayna EarleyThe Island NewsLADY’S ISLAND – The City of Beaufort held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for their newest park on Friday, April 21, 2023.Whitehall Park, which officially opened in March, is a 10-acre park on Lady’s Island that has a walking trail and boardwalk that connects the park to downtown Beaufort and Woods Memorial Bridge.“I call this park ‘The Connector,’” said Beaufort County Council Member York Glover, Sr. “It co...
By Delayna Earley
The Island News
LADY’S ISLAND – The City of Beaufort held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for their newest park on Friday, April 21, 2023.
Whitehall Park, which officially opened in March, is a 10-acre park on Lady’s Island that has a walking trail and boardwalk that connects the park to downtown Beaufort and Woods Memorial Bridge.
“I call this park ‘The Connector,’” said Beaufort County Council Member York Glover, Sr. “It connects the Spanish Moss Trail to Hunting Island. You may not see that now, but this here is essential to that elconnectivity.”
Glover continued to say that the county has a plan for pathways all over Beaufort County, and Whitehall Park is the connector in the middle of Yemassee and Hunting Island.
Eight of the 10 acres in the park are devoted to a nature preserve area, and it is part of the 20-acre Whitehall neighborhood development that is expected to have town homes, single-family homes, garden cottages and large river homes once it is all built.
“Beaufort County has purchased this property for you,” Glover said.
The City of Beaufort has partnered with Beaufort County regarding the Whitehall property.
The county owns the property, but the City of Beaufort is going to manage it.
Any expense of maintaining the property will be the responsibility of the City of Beaufort as well, according to Glover.
The park is pet friendly and has picnic tables, benches, restrooms, lighting along the walking path, a shelter, large open green spaces, beautiful live oak trees and a fantastic view of the Beaufort River.
“This park will outlive all of us,” Beaufort mayor Stephen Murray said, “and my grandkids, and maybe great-grandkids will crab from that dock and kick a ball in this park.”
Whitehall Park is open daily from dawn until dusk.
Delayna Earley lives in Beaufort with her husband, two children and Jack Russell. She spent six years as a videographer and photographer for The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette before leaving the Lowcountry in 2018. After freelancing in Myrtle Beach and Virginia, she joined The Island News when she moved back to Beaufort in 2022. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whitehall snagged the opening slot on the Goo Goo Dolls' tour, which stops in Albuquerque on Friday, Nov. 18. (Courtesy of Earshot Media)Whitehall member Brennan Clark's first concert was the Goo Goo Dolls. Flash forward more than a decade and Clark's band, Whitehall, is opening for the Grammy Award-winning band on its "Chaos In Bloom" tour. The tour makes a stop in Albuquerque at Kiva Auditorium on Friday, Nov. 18. "It's been really fun," Clark says. "It's kind of full circle for me. I saw them first and now ...
Whitehall snagged the opening slot on the Goo Goo Dolls' tour, which stops in Albuquerque on Friday, Nov. 18. (Courtesy of Earshot Media)
Whitehall member Brennan Clark's first concert was the Goo Goo Dolls. Flash forward more than a decade and Clark's band, Whitehall, is opening for the Grammy Award-winning band on its "Chaos In Bloom" tour. The tour makes a stop in Albuquerque at Kiva Auditorium on Friday, Nov. 18. "It's been really fun," Clark says. "It's kind of full circle for me. I saw them first and now we get to open for them. It's surreal at the same time because we're seeing places we've never seen before." Whitehall is an indie rock four-piece from Charleston, South Carolina. The band is known for their lyrics, which have an insatiable desire for more out of life. The band is rounded out by Paddy Mckiernan, Avery Greeson and Davis Rowe. Whitehall is gearing up to release its new album, "Maizy," on Jan. 25. The 11-track album was created a little different than the band's previous efforts. The members of Whitehall have been finished with the album and can't wait to release it. "We just want to give it to everyone," the band says collectively during a recent phone interview. "The album process was quicker than usual." The members wrote the material for the album in two weeks and was a collaborative effort. While each member has their own taste, Whitehall came together to create music that chronicles where they are at now in life. "In the most general sense, our music is about being 25 or 26 and coming into your adulthood," the band says. "We're three years out of college and we are all dealing with different growing pains." Because the band has been making music for awhile, each member feels like their bond has grown and trust is there during the process. "We are aware of each other's thought process," the band continues. "One of us would pick up on a vibe and we would just go with it." With more than a handful of albums and EPs released to date, Whitehall says the set list encompasses all of its music – including the hits. "All kidding aside, we have two songs from nearly every project," the band says. "We take the best songs from each and weave it into a set." After the tour is over with the Goo Goo Dolls, the band will return to Brooklyn, New York, where they all moved to in October. The band will finish out the year with a show there on Dec. 9.
What supporters say is an opportunity of a lifetime for a waterfront park on Lady’s Island...
What supporters say is an opportunity of a lifetime for a waterfront park on Lady’s Island is all but a done deal.
Beaufort County will spend up to $4,371,000 to buy and preserve 9.72 acres of Whitehall. County Council approved the purchase in a unanimous vote Monday.
The deal with a private developer shields about half of the property from development and would forever leave open a vista walking, biking and fishing across the Beaufort River from downtown.
“It’s been an interesting run,” said Paul Butare, who helped organize a Friends of Whitehall Park group. “It speaks to what can happen with a dedicated group of people supplemented by social media.”
Beaufort developer Sam Levin and his partners plan to buy Whitehall from Savannah-based First Chatham Bank and build an independent living facility with a pool, commercial space, homes and condos on the 19-acre property bordered by Sea Island Parkway to the north and Meridian Road to the east.
The park would remove about 70 townhome and condo units from development plans, leaving the independent living facility, commercial space and some cottage sites.
Since the park proposal became a possibility this summer, the volunteer Friends of Whitehall garnered 6,000 supporters on an online petition and held a Saturday morning open-house event at Whitehall.
The majority of the purchase is expected to come from county money reserved for land preservation through the Rural and Critical Lands Program, administered by the Beaufort County Open Land Trust.
The city of Beaufort approved an agreement earlier this month to provide ongoing maintenance for the park. At least one public meeting will be held to develop a master plan for the park, which would be passive and limited to low-activity uses like walking and bird watching.
Beaufort County Council vice chairman Jerry Stewart said before the vote Monday he had reservations about the deal because of the high cost and because the property didn’t score as well as some others using criteria the Rural and Critical Lands uses to help guide purchasing decisions. But the broad public support at Monday’s meeting changed his mind, he said.
The county had previously approved building a walkway from Richard V. Woods Memorial Bridge connecting the property, allowing people to more easily walk over from downtown Beaufort.
“I just foresee something in the future that would benefit my grandchildren for years to come and this community for years to come,” County Councilman York Glover said.
This story was originally published September 25, 2018, 2:12 PM.
Plans for taxpayers to buy and maintain a 10-acre waterfront park in northern...
Plans for taxpayers to buy and maintain a 10-acre waterfront park in northern Beaufort County could be approved by early next week after a key agreement was solidified Tuesday, though the eventual price is still being kept secret.
Beaufort County would buy the 9.72-acre Whitehall property on Lady’s Island from a private developer to preserve as a park, and the city will provide maintenance, per the terms of a 30-year agreement the City Council unanimously approved Tuesday.
The deal requires another vote by County Council on Monday to close. The cost of the purchase, which would come largely from county land preservation funds, has been kept secret.
County Council Chairman Paul Sommerville said the cost would be included in the body’s potential vote Monday but that he couldn’t reveal the price before then.
Sommerville said numbers have only been discussed behind closed doors and, despite the deal involving public money, is kept secret because of the possibility of others competing for the same property. He previously said his understanding is the property was valued at $680,000 per acre, which comes out to $6.6 million for the proposed park property.
Barbara Holmes, land protection director for the Open Land Trust, declined to reveal the negotiated price Wednesday but said the number is below its appraised value.
“We go through exactly the same process for anything we buy,” Sommerville said. “This just happens to be a big-ticket item.”
The Rural and Critical Lands Program is funded by referendums where voters have agreed to pay higher taxes towards land preservation efforts. Another $25 million for the program is on the ballot for Nov. 6.
The Land Trust, which administers the program, shelved other high-priority targets when Whitehall became available, Director Cindy Baysden said Tuesday.
The document approved this week outlines low-key uses for the park, such as walking, biking and fishing. Weddings or similar events eventually could be held on the property, Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said.
City officials last month expressed concern about maintaining the park when they didn’t know its size, design or how much it might eventually cost city taxpayers to upkeep.
The city is prepared to borrow $8 million to address drainage issues in the Mossy Oaks area, with millions of dollars also needed for drainage projects in other areas. The Beaufort Downtown Marina has maintenance issues that eventually will need to be addressed, Beaufort resident and former Redevelopment Commission member Alan Dechovitz told council members.
City officials still don’t know the eventual annual maintenance costs for the park under the approved agreement, Keyserling said Tuesday. Asked why he’s comfortable moving forward without knowing the eventual cost, Keyserling said the agreement limits the city’s liability and allows for control over how it eventually looks and is used.
Beaufort would maintain the park in its condition when it opens. Future improvements would require a funding source, whether from the city or elsewhere.
“Should (the county) want to do something with the land while we have it leased, that means we plan together,” Keyserling said. “If we want to do something that is bigger than we anticipate, we say we can’t do it or we can do it, but we need you to help.”
The county is working to buy the park property from Beaufort developer Sam Levin and his partners, who would develop Whitehall’s remaining 10 acres.
“My concern is we’re spending a large chunk of our Rural and Critical land monies to take down 9.72 acres, when maybe that money would go to make a larger growth management impact (elsewhere on Lady’s Island),” City Councilman Stephen Murray said, noting recent studies that show a the potential for thousands of more homes and more than 2.2 million square feet of business space in the community.
Baysden acknowledged Whitehall would go down as one of the Rural and Critical Lands Program’s most expensive purchases. But she said not doing so would be a “huge loss.”
“We’re not trying to just build more parks for the heck of it,” she said after the agreement was approved. “We’re trying to preserve this particular, very special piece of land, so that everybody can enjoy it.”
Beaufort County Councilman York Glover, a St. Helena Island native whose district includes Whitehall, said maintaining the view crossing onto Lady’s Island from downtown Beaufort is important to preserve the area’s small-town feel.
“Development is going to happen, there’s no question about that,” he said. “There’s some properties I believe should be preserved, and that’s one.”
This story was originally published September 19, 2018, 1:43 PM.