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Planned park for Fort Jackson’s anniversary gets Richland County’s conditional OK

Fort Jackson’s economic impact on Columbia includes soldiers and others who come here for the Army’s Drill Sergeant School. A proposed park would pay tribute to all who have been trained or served on the Army’s largest training facility.
Fort Jackson’s economic impact on Columbia includes soldiers and others who come here for the Army’s Drill Sergeant School. A proposed park would pay tribute to all who have been trained or served on the Army’s largest training facility. FILE PHOTOGRAPH

Supporters of a plan to build a $2.7 million park on Fort Jackson to note its 100th anniversary won a pledge Tuesday from Richland County Council to match what the city has agreed to contribute.

The county agreed to chip in $300,000 spread over three years using meal-tax money. But County Council put two conditions on its contribution: The Department of the Army must first approve the park and organizers must provide a detailed budget.

“The budget we’ve received is rather poorly done,” Councilman Bill Malinowski said before the vote. “We just have a whole lot of numbers thrown at us without any supporting documents.”

Still, council voted 11-0 to support using uncommitted meal tax revenue once the conditions are met. Meal taxes are collected largely from patrons of the county’s restaurants and bars.

Several council members questioned whether the county should commit taxpayer money to the post, which restricts access. One of the park supporters handed council a half-inch thick policy manual that addresses the military’s restrictions to its facilities. The limits on access will be no different than currently applied to people who use the post’s water park, the supporter, who did not identify himself, said.

The Army is close to making a decision on the 4.5-acre centennial park, which will feature an amphitheater, a statue of a soldier and other memorials, walking pathways and six covered pavilions.

County administrator Gerald Seals, in a Dec. 9 memo to council, recommended a contribution of $500,000 in unspent meal taxes over three years.

In November, Columbia City Council authorized $300,000 over three years.

The Gateway to the Army Association, the park organizers, had asked the city for $450,000 to kick-start a fundraising drive. Park backers hope to open the park in June, when the Army’s largest recruit training base reaches its century mark.

Organizers have been soliciting public money from several local governments as well as financial support from corporations and nonprofit groups.

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