12 Dec 2022
Charleston is blessed with a plethora of terrific parks that take advantage of the Lowcountry’s natural beauty.
The Charleston County Park System is one of the best in the country. It’s fully accredited and award-winning, with almost three dozen parks/facilities, either functioning now or planned for the future. They include beaches, camping sites, fishing piers, dog parks, water parks, historical sites, an equestrian center, and recreation facilities for tennis, skateboarding, wall climbing, swimming, biking and hiking.
Memorial Waterfront Park
Area towns and cities have some amazing parks as well. One of the very best - and most popular - is Memorial Waterfront Park in Mount Pleasant.
It sits underneath the shadow of the majestic Ravenel Bridge. The park features a 1,250-foot pier that stretches out into Charleston Harbor and the Wando River. It offers great views and fishing, to boot. The pier was built on the pilings of the old Silas Pearman Bridge, which the Ravenel replaced.
Waterfront Park has several other parts to it, including a covered pavilion, River Watch Café & Gift Shop, fishing gear rentals, swings, picnic tables and rocking chairs, a large nautical-themed playground for the kids, Visitor’s Center, Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Pavilion, and War Memorial. There are large grassy areas and lots of nice paths to walk.
It’s also become a popular venue for special events, like the Blessing of the Fleet, Shaggin’ on the Cooper dance parties, Sweetgrass Festival, Party in the Park, Movies in the Park, and plenty more.
Phase III is Happening Now
Waterfront Park is great now, and it’s getting better all the time. Officials just announced that a $6 million, Phase III of the park expansion is underway, and there are some really exciting additions coming.
All the funding is in place. And they’ve already completed one new feature - a dramatic Monument to First Responders, located near the War Memorial. It’s a giant bell that looks a bit like the Liberty Bell, suspended under a replica of the Ravenel Bridge’s distinctive towers. The monument pays tribute to the firemen, police officers, and other public employees who help keep Mount Pleasant safe.
Next up are some really fun additions. Most will be located across the street from the current facilities, in the grassy area where the overflow parking has been. Town officials are in the design and permitting phase now, awaiting approval from the Federal Highway Administration and SCDOT.
Here is Some of What’s to Come…
New Athletic Facilities
This is a no-brainer since people love to come to the park to get some exercise. In fact, many people head to Waterfront Park to stretch and warm up a bit before running the bridge. They’ll be adding some terrific new athletic facilities for the public - including a large calisthenics area not far from the entrance to the Ravenel Bridge paths – perfect for that pre-run stretch.
Also on tap is a large multipurpose sports court area - including a couple of basketball courts, as well as the HOT SPORT - pickleball. At last check, they’ll be adding four pickleball courts… which no doubt will be fully occupied at all times. They’re also putting in a ¼ mile walking track nearby.
A Salute to the Old Bridges
Near the entrance to the new phase, they’ll have a special nod to the past. There will be an exhibit about the old bridges that used to connect Mount Pleasant with Charleston - the very narrow (and quite scary) Grace Memorial Bridge and the Silas N. Pearman Bridge - both of which the Ravenel Bridge replaced. In fact, they will have part of the old Grace Bridge on display.
This part will be really cute. They’ll be adding a splash pad fountain play area for kids, which will be great fun in hot weather. It will also have a water tower feature that will echo the design of the Ravenel Bridge.
In addition, they’re expanding and landscaping the pond area that lies in the shadow of the bridge. It will be situated between the calisthenics and multipurpose sports court areas. They’ll also add some new restrooms nearby.
Something Special for the Doggos
Here is one addition that I, and much of the Lowcountry, are particularly excited about. They’ll be adding a fenced-in, off-leash dog park. In fact, they’ll be adding two of them - one for big dogs, and one for small dogs.
It, too, will be located underneath the bridge, which should offer some nice shade for the canines and for us owners.
Extras for cars, too…
And finally, they’re even making provisions for cars. Although much of Phase III expansion will take over the area that has been used for overflow parking, they’re also being careful to retain parking spots for events and everyday crowds. These will be located in the center of the walking track as well as further back underneath the bridge.
Lastly, they will be adding several electric vehicle charging stations at the front of the new phase, toward the Visitor’s Center.
So - exciting changes coming our way, which should benefit Charleston visitors and locals alike. If all goes as planned, they’re hoping it will all be completed and ready to go by the summer of 2024.
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger