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‘Ecological park’ planned for site of former West Ashley townhomes

Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 4:04 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 30, 2021 at 8:27 PM EDT
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WEST ASHLEY, S.C. (WCSC) - The City of Charleston is planning to build what it’s calling an “ecological park” on land in West Ashley that was once home to more than two dozen townhomes.

The park will have a number of features like wetlands and flood benches to store stormwater, and reduce flooding in the Church Creek basin, said Matthew Fountain, the city’s stormwater management director. In 2019, the city tore down 32 townhomes on the site after getting a $10 million grant from FEMA to buy the properties that flooded consistently.

“It’s about five acres of work… incorporating some horizontal transects where we have kind of higher areas and then lower wetland areas, and then transition space in between,” Fountain described.

Plans for the ecological park also call for opportunities for people to fish, walk and enjoy nature.

A community meeting on the project Thursday attracted 70 residents some of whom were eager to hear solutions to flooding in the area. Others shared concerns about whether a park would bring in more traffic and disruption.

Since the townhomes were removed, neighbor Brian Hanson said the area has been a gathering place that has become a nuisance.

“There’s been four wheelers out there, there’s been dirt bikes out there, there’ve been golf carts driving around on there,” he said. “People come in and park there, and there’s all kinds of things that are found.”

He’s not sure if the ecological park will solve those issues.

“They put a park there. Are they going to lock the gates at a certain time? Who’s going to do that?” he asked.

Fountain said the current plans call for a more passive park design which will reduce overall traffic when compared to a traditional park.

He also said now that the Church Creek basin has been extensively studied, it’s time to start working on flooding solutions like the ecological park concept, which he described as one tool in the city’s arsenal to combat flooding.

The concept, he added, could work well not just in West Ashley but other less dense areas of the city like James and Johns Islands and Cainhoy.

“None of these projects by themselves will fix all of the flooding. This is a long-term process to work through of building more and more projects and more and more different approaches to help release that flooding,” he said.

The project is being made possible in part by two grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation totaling $1.4 million. The city is matching that amount.

Design work is still underway, which Fountain said he hopes wraps up by the end of the year. Construction is set to start next year.

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