'Game-changing' park enhancements coming to Daniel Island
Life in this island town is about to get even better. Two outdoor areas, one along the Wando River near Children’s Park and another in the heart of the island’s town center, will soon get a $1.5 million spruce up, thanks to the Daniel Island Community Fund.
“It’s a major investment being made on the island,” said Jane Baker, vice president of community services for the Daniel Island Property Owners Association. “And something that all residents, all commercial property owners, can enjoy on a daily basis.”
The first parcel, dubbed Waterfront Park, is a linear space that sits in between the existing trail system and the Wando River, adjacent to the Daniel Island Real Estate Sales Center. The land and dock were originally owned by the City of Charleston, but in 2016 the property was transferred to the Daniel Island Town Association (DITA) in a Fourth Amendment to the Daniel Island Development Agreement. The city was supposed to develop a park in the area, but since they also were tasked with funding a new community center on the island, it did not appear the waterfront initiative was going to happen, added Baker.
“They couldn’t fund both,” she explained. “So collectively and wisely the decision was made by the city to put that funding into the new community center, so that left the waterfront park…The trail itself is nice, the dock is OK, but it is not as well used an asset as it could be. Nor is it really up to the standards of Daniel Island, in our opinion. That was identified as a number one priority to really enhance the waterfront on both sides of River Landing Drive.”
And DITA’s plans are to do just that. A covered area will be added to the existing dock, as well as an angled pier extension that will create a small harbor for launching water sports.
“There is going to be a kayak launch and a stand-up paddle board launch,” added Baker. “All of this will be owned by DITA. It will be publicly accessible and we’re just really excited to be able to offer more water sports. We’ll be able to do a true sailing program now out of there and people can day dock there as well.”
Improvements are also in the works for the land along the river. A pavilion-type structure with tables and chairs will be added at the end of the dock for community gatherings, such as musical performances and other special events. New trails with pervious, eco-friendly surfaces will be created down to the water off the main path, additional lighting will be installed, and limited, select pruning will take place to open up views. A new hammock garden, seating areas and green spaces are also part of the plan. Historic educational components may be added later.
“While it will not be a dramatic waterfront park, it will be a dramatic change to what is there as far as enhancements go,” said Baker. “It will still feel natural...We’re really, really thrilled!”
The current trail system, to remain in place, will be widened and enhanced.
“The existing footprint of the trail remains the same,” explained Baker. “It’s just getting expanded through these woods. The whole point is to continue the existing trail system connections.”
Some residents have expressed concern on social media that tape wrapped around tree trunks in the waterfront park area are an indication the trees have been earmarked for removal as part of a separate plan to create a new townhome community in the vicinity. That is not necessarily the case, explained Carolyn Lancaster, vice president of marketing for the Daniel Island Company. That project, dubbed River Landing Village, is being developed by East West Partners.
“The trees in that area have just been initially surveyed for health, size, ground elevation,” she said. “…Survey tape does not mean that a tree is slated for removal, it is just an indication that it has been inventoried. This is just early work to understand and survey the site conditions - not an indication that construction activity for the River Landing project is imminent.”
The DICF grant will also fund improvements to Guggenheim Plaza, which encompasses the large pond and surrounding path in between Seven Farms Drive and Island Park Drive. Baker called the site “an unrecognized gem.”
“We just thought that is the center of town,” she said. “It could be so much more!”
Over the last year, Baker has worked with designers at Thomas & Hutton to come up with plans for enhancements to the space. They initially studied a “wholesale transformation” to both ends of the park, she said, but ultimately settled on the Island Park drive side as the best location to target from both a cost and engineering perspective. A large wooden deck supported by piers will be added over the western side of the pond, as well as an extensive new grass lawn. Both will have areas for seating and congregating for special events and other gatherings, such as the annual Daniel Island Christmas tree lighting celebration.
“This is a place for congregation during the day and night,” Baker said. “It will have attractive lighting, and beautiful…colorful (floral) beds that are changed out seasonally…I think this is going to be a really special place.”
Baker and her team also hope the improvements will provide an opportunity to partner on events with nearby businesses, such as Dockery’s, LIDI, and the new Center Island Square development. In addition, she foresees the road and parking area along the pond’s northern side as a potentially good location to host the Daniel Island Farmers Market in the summer months.
“This asset, Guggenheim Park, is sized that you could have 1000 people at an event, once you look at all of the seat walls all the way around,” she continued. “…This is a really neat, new urban park. The aquaculture will be improved and there will be major landscaping improvements…It’s just a really beautiful renovation to an existing asset.”
Both of the open spaces are assets of the Daniel Island Town Association (DITA), explained Baker. The DICF grant is the largest ever distributed by the non-profit, which is funded through a transfer fee on all island real estate resale transactions.
“No property owners’ assessments went toward paying for this,” said Baker. “...Three years ago, the real estate market really started bouncing back, so we were growing a fairly sizeable community fund…The resident community fund board wanted to grow that fund into a place where we could look at some meaningful projects on Daniel Island – infrastructure, capital projects – that would really be game changers for residents.”
The Guggenheim Park enhancements are set to get underway this year, possibly in May or June, with completion expected in the fall. Due to a lengthier permitting process, construction on Waterfront Park is not likely to begin until next year, noted Baker. But the fact that both initiatives are moving forward is exciting, she added.
“We’re thrilled that we’re able to bring these two projects to fruition!”