Daniel Island offers 'remarkable' opportunity for large-scale park
Congress is now back in session, but before I am wrapped up completely in national issues, I want to float an idea and ask for your help.
One of the things I heard in talking to friends over Christmas was that they were concerned about Charleston losing some of what makes it so special. For instance, traffic is going from bad to worse. There are many things we can do about this; here is one idea.
We should work to keep the ingredients of our great city in place and, accordingly, recognize part of the Charleston area’s magnificence is tied to the ways in which we held onto our past. While many cities in the 1970’s were tearing down the old to make way for the new, visionaries like Francis Edmonds insisted otherwise. Another part of what makes this city unique has been our size and thereby our connection and access to the natural wonder that is the Lowcountry.
Here is the catch. There is going to be a lot of new in Charleston, given the massive influx of people headed in our direction. And as a city grows, it pushes out the natural settings that are a part of what makes this area so desirable. Big cities seem to capture you. It gets harder and harder to get out. We see signs of that in our own growth with Charleston’s traffic congestion. This makes a quick drive to the country that much tougher on a Friday afternoon.
It’s for that reason the great cities of the world have been so deliberate about capturing parts of their countryside and incorporating them into the tapestry that makes a town. Think about it. All the great cities have parks of scale. New York has 843 acres in the middle of Manhattan, and I could not have survived my time in the city without Central Park. Sydney, Australia has over 1000 acres on the water, and Chicago has about the same in Lincoln Park. London and Paris both have about 5000 acres downtown, while Stockholm has over 6000 acres. The English Garden in Munich consists of about 1000 acres, and Stanley and Golden Gate parks in Vancouver and San Francisco have about the same. I could go on with a longer list, but the point here is simple: in each of these cities, these parks took foresight - and they add tremendously to people’s quality of life.
A park of scale also adds value at three levels. One, in the value of real estate - some of the most expensive real estate in the world abuts these parks. Two, things not built on don't add traffic. And three, they enhance the community. Richard Florida’s book, The Rise of the Creative Class, is premised on smart people having geographic choices in the age of the internet, and how they gravitate to places that offer a high quality lifestyle. A park of scale is just such an enhancement. Like Central Park, it offers a cyclist, runner, or soccer player room to participate and all of us a place to go with family or friends for a walk or picnic.
We have a perfect place for such a park in Charleston. There are 1300 acres that you and I already own through the Ports Authority on the tip of Daniel Island. If you preserved the 400 acres along the Wando River, you would have something special that would still allow for the port to do what it needs to do in dredging and even allow them additional development land. It faces south and is thereby blessed with the afternoon breeze so essential to summertime enjoyment. It would be accessible by water taxi from downtown or Mt. Pleasant, an important feature in dealing with the traffic headed our way. It’s even been started. To the credit of the Ports Authority, I know they are working on conservation ideas for some of the land. Jim Merrill and Larry Grooms of our state House and Senate have already secured 50 acres for our state parks system at the very tip of the peninsula for park use. They all deserve your praise. But let’s not stop there; let’s do something remarkable - and of scale - that fits with the magnificent area we call home.
This is a project I had begun as Governor, given the appointments I made to the Port Authority. We were quietly well on our way, and I had even penned an editorial in The Post and Courier ten years ago expounding on the value that would be created in the Tri-county area in protecting this land. And then I blew myself up in 2009, and that was the end of that. But it wasn’t. Jim, Larry, and the Port have moved forward with park ideas on their own. I have been granted a second chance in politics and would simply like to use it in being a catalyst with others to create a park of scale. Each one of us can work to make it happen. This way, 100 years from now when Charleston looks far different than today, there will be a green oasis in the middle of our metropolitan area that offers a touch of what has attracted so many of us to call the Lowcountry home.
Call me if you want to get involved at (843) 352-7572. Alternatively, email me at email@example.com.
U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford represents the First District of South Carolina, which includes Daniel Island, and was sworn into the 113th Congress after winning a special election in May 2013.