Land purchased for Northeast Richland parks

The Richland County Recreation Commission has purchased property for two new parks in the Northeast Richland area.

Construction is still years away, but residents of the growing area can expect playing fields, walking trails and picnic areas on 37 acres near Rimer Pond and Hard Scrabble roads and on 115 acres near Kelly Mill and Bombing Range roads.

The projects are part of the $50 million bond issue for park expansion approved last year. The commission started the expansion program by purchasing land for new parks, including $1.6 million for 41 acres on Garners Ferry Road and $594,500 for 12 acres on Marley Drive near the Broad River last January.

Negotiations for the Northeast Richland land took longer, finally closing in December. The commission also considered a large tract near Longreen Parkway near Clemson Road, but decided against that tract because of access and wetlands problems and a high asking price, said commission chairman Domino Boulware.

During discussions before the bond was approved, recreation officials expressed the desire to build one large, new park in Northeast Richland and bank property for future parks. The bond also is slated to pay for improvements at existing parks.

The land near Kelly Mill and Bombing Range roads is suitable for the new, large park. It includes a 10.2-acre lake, backs up to the Woodlake subdivision and borders Bridge Creek Elementary School.

The recreation agency put together two small tracts owned by Thomas Fortson Jr. and Thomas Fortson III and one large tract owned by Kelly Mill Investments to allow for access from both Kelly Mill and Bombing Range roads. The land is undeveloped.

Development of the park is scheduled in the last phase of the multiyear expansion program, said agency spokesman Kenya Bryant. The plan calls for football, soccer and baseball fields, trails, restrooms and picnic areas.

The other property purchased is on the south side of Rimer Pond, between Longtown and Hard Scrabble roads. It was part of two tracts, totaling 69 acres, purchased last year by Sycamore Development for $1.6 million, according to Richland County property records.

Michael Letts, vice president of Sycamore, said the company did engineering work and installed some infrastructure with plans to build homes on the property. But when the recreation agency asked about the property, the company decided to sell the larger of the two tracts for $1.3 million.

"Sycamore Development certainly could have sold the property for more money, but we consider the recreation commission's plans a wise investment in the future, and we were excited to partner with the county on a project which will have such a positive impact on the area," Letts said.

In the planning process, the agency set aside money for construction of the larger park but only set aside money for land for the secondary park in Northeast Richland.

In its last major expansion, started in 1999, the agency ran out of money before the final project could be completed on Garners Ferry Road. That complex is one of the first priorities for the new expansion effort.