By Peggy Allard and Frank Gibson, Co-Chairs of Friends of Crystal Lake Committee
The Friends of Crystal Lake Committee was formed in December 2011 for the purpose of developing a community sponsored plan for the development of the 26-acre Crystal Lake property into a passive park. The goal was to have such a plan completed by March 1, 2012, and provided to Beaufort County Planning Department for use in the actual development of the park. The plan has been prepared and delivered to the Beaufort County Planning Department.
Based on the public response received from numerous public meetings and a community survey plus the generous contribution of the time and talents of many professionals the plan for the development of Crystal Lake as a passive park recommends the following:
Recommendation 1: Crystal Lake be developed in the following phases:
• Phase I — Safety. Conduct a survey of the existing fence followed by repair for those portions needing repair and erection of fencing for those areas without a fence. Make such repairs as may be necessary to the existing facility to make it a viable and safe structure.
• Phase II — 1. Conduct such additional engineering studies as may be necessary to allow construction of a basic trail around the lake and determine the feasibility of a children’s playground. 2. Issue a “request for proposal” for a joint private-public partnership to determine the feasibility and desirability of allowing a private entity to operate in the existing facility to include use of the lake in return for support (financial or in-kind) in the operation of the park. 3. Investigate the feasibility of utilizing the school parking area (football stadium) adjacent to park on a limited basis.
• Phase III — Authorization and construction as necessary for the following prioritized projects/uses. (Priority based on results of community survey)
• Walking/nature trail
• Children’s Playground
• Interpretative Center (portion of existing facility dedicated to such use)
Recommendation 2: That the following programs be considered for inclusion in the operation of the park.
• A public garden
• Nature program
• Audubon program
• Public/Private School Sponsored Science Program
As can be seen, the above recommendations only provide a framework for a future Crystal Lake Park. There is an enormous amount of work to be accomplished before the grand opening of the park actually occurs. From the process of putting a Crystal Lake plan together, it has become very obvious that the majority of the Lady’s Island and Beaufort residents are not aware of the lake or its potential contribution to the community. As a blended fresh water and salt water lake, it is a natural jewel that deserves to be protected and made available to the public. Hopefully, within the next year this will happen.
The Friends of Crystal Lake Committee will, at this point, transition into a “reserve” status as the proposed plan is considered and hopefully adopted for implementation by Beaufort County. Once the plan is adopted and implementation authorized, the committee will reform and reorganize to better support the development and operation of the park. Until that time please accept, on behalf of the members of the committee, our sincere “thank you” to all who have shared their thoughts, opinions and offers of future support for a Crystal Lake passive park.