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Crane Creek Community Breaks Ground on Long-Sought Park

By Porter Barron Jr.
Tuesday, December 24, 2013 |
Rendering courtesy of Richland County
Leslie Knope, the underappreciated public servant on NBC sitcom Parks & Recreation, might tremble with envy had she witnessed the Dec. 19 groundbreaking ceremony for a new park in the Crane Creek community north of Columbia, the first in a series of projects aimed at providing historically underserved Richland County communities with recreational opportunities.

Gathering at the wooded and currently unkempt 2.6-acre tract in the middle of a school day, 30 or so older residents of the seven neighborhoods that comprise the community were effusive in their local pride and gratitude to the county government for its support. Recreational outlets, like Crane Creek’s new gym that the county opened last December, have been a long time coming and are keenly appreciated, they say.

“The sheriff’s department has provided the figures for us — since the opening of our beautiful gym, crime in the area has dropped by 30 percent, which means just one thing: What we have now, we needed a long time ago,” said community leader Hainsley Lewis.

“We’re proud of it, we’re happy to have it and it is made full use of daily,” he said.

Lewis added that 80 to 100 community members pack the gym nightly to exercise and play basketball. Now he and his neighbors hope the incipient outdoor facility will encourage even more healthy behavior and further unite their community.

Tiaa Rutherford, Richland County’s neighborhood planner, hyped the park’s plan to the assembly.

“When this project is complete you will have a new 0.26 mile, 5-foot-wide recycled rubber walking and jogging trail that will be the key feature of this park,” she said. “You will also [have] a wooden nature center, a structure that will accommodate 25 to 30 persons for educational purposes.

“You will also have a lighted pathway, 6-foot long park benches along the walking trail, trash receptacles so that all those bottles we see strewn about today will be in their rightful place,” Rutherford said.

Community residents are also anticipating flower boxes and about a half dozen picnic shelters with grills and tables.

According to Rutherford, Crane Creek’s new amenities are the result of an outpouring of community input that began in 2007 with meetings attended by hundreds of local residents.

“The Richland County Recreation Commission heard you,” she said. “You have a new gymnasium facility behind us to prove that. More importantly, Richland County Council heard you and has now committed resources toward the implementation of your master plan.”

Richland County is paying for the $500,000 project with money from the Neighborhood Redevelopment Fund, which relies on county property tax revenue and grants from outside sources, according to county spokesmen Tige Watts.

“This is one of those projects where it was affordable to do because it’s in a nice area and the bid on the construction costs came in like $15,000 below what they were projecting,” he said.

Brownstone Construction + Design is overseeing the project while Irmo-based Corley Construction is implementing the design.

“It’s really important for this community because for too long the area has been kind of neglected,” Watts added.

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