RICHLAND COUNTY, SC — Plans for a new lakeside park along Garners Ferry Road are taking shape, and Councilman Norman Jackson said he will be seeking money for initial walking trails and fish-cleaning stations during budget debates this spring.
Last week, Jackson was appointed chairman of an ad hoc committee to work out details for what the park should offer. Greg Pearce and Bill Malinowski will join him.
The advisory committee will sort through recommendations by consultants Chao and Associates, who laid out a proposal for the 44-acre site commonly called Caughman Pond. Costs range from $1.1 million to $4.1 million for a park the consultants said could attract up to 50,000 people a year.
Initially, Jackson envisions the lake as a place for anglers and walkers, with a 1.2-mile trail.
“You really need somewhere you can enjoy nature,” he said.
Ultimately, he wants the county to build an amphitheater for outdoor concerts and a multi-purpose building to accommodate weddings, family reunions and other gatherings. “There’s nothing in Lower Richland with a facility for a function,” he said.
Jackson persisted for two years to persuade the council to buy the property for $1 million. The tract is defined by a 20-acre lake that’s in the process of being drained, apparently for cleaning. It also has a brick house, a half-dozen sheds and a barn.
Out of concern for liability, the county did not buy the spillway at one end of the lake, which Jackson said some maps refer to as Pinewood Lake.
Pearce, who said he learned to swim there as a child, voted against the purchase of the property and said he still doesn’t think it’s a high priority. Now that the county owns it, though, he said he has a responsibility to make the best of it.
“It would be a nice place for people to go out and have a walking trail, to fish and picnic,” Pearce said. “Close in to town, you have a rural, pastoral setting.”
The consultant’s report also addresses the potential for a “living history farm” that could appeal to area students studying science and history.
“Plowing with mules, making lye soap, grinding grits, blacksmithing, curing meat, preserving vegetables, milking cows and harvesting crops are only a few hands-on activities the farm will offer,” the report suggests.
At least one local social studies teacher thinks that idea has potential.
Scott Gandy met Jackson in August and, ever since, has been trying to gather information about who has owned the property and how it’s been used over the years. He’s an enthusiastic volunteer who has not only been poking around on the property but interviewing people with connections to the site.
Gandy, who works at Caughman Road Elementary, said he’s intrigued by the history of Lower Richland that the site could convey, but also enjoys visiting because it’s quiet.
“Yes, there’s EdVenture. Yes, there’s the State Museum – but nothing like this,” said Gandy, who’s a big proponent of field trips and hands-on learning for his students.
Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.