Irmo adds parking at popular new park that will host Okra Strut

tflach@thestate.comApril 20, 2014 

The Grand Marshall of the Okra Strut parade is "Okra Man," one of the most visible symbols of the Okra Strut Festival.

ROB THOMPSON — The State

— Irmo leaders are scrambling to increase parking at a new park that’s more popular than expected.

“We didn’t know it was going to be such a hit,” Councilwoman Kathy Condom said of six-month-old Community Park, in the 7500 block of Eastview Drive.

Town leaders plan to double the current 52 spaces by cutting down three dozen small pine trees in the 14-acre park to put in a gravel lot.

Mayor Hardy King, who opposed creation of the $1.8 million park, agreed its reception is better than envisioned.

“It’s good it’s being so used,” he said.

The new quarter-acre parking area should be adequate for daily crowds but would be insufficient for those at events, he said.

Discussions are underway with nearby Union United Methodist Church officials about renting space there for audiences headed to concerts and movies that are planned at the park’s 500-seat amphitheater.

Doing that would require a path built at town expense connecting the park and church.

Leased parking at the church and elsewhere would be similar to what happens during the annual Okra Strut, a two-day festival that draws up to 50,000 visitors to town.

The park was created to be the permanent home of the festival as other sites became unavailable.

It’s the second park in the town of 11,000 residents straddling the border of Lexington and Richland counties.

The park opened for everyday use in early November, so the 41st edition of the festival this September will be the first in its new home.

“If you look at the (park) usage so far, it’s money well-spent,” Condom said.

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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