Jan 21 2013

A Walk in the Park

By Hannah Dockery

Christmas may be over but the spirit of giving remains alive and strong in the Charleston community. Last week, Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission (CCPRC) received an 87-acre donation on the north side of the Stono River, and half a mile west of the ending point of the West Ashley Greenway. The property, known as Limehouse Point, was made possible thanks to Jenny and Mike Messner, alongside Paul and Betsy Shiverick, in a generous effort to keep Charleston beautiful and green.

The Messner’s came to know the property through their foundation Red Fields to Green Fields, which supports initiatives around the country aimed at conservation. The foundation provides research opportunities to students at Georgia Tech to find financially distressed properties that could potentially be converted to greenspace. Often, the spaces have been subject to the real estate crisis and came under financially trying situations that left them in debt. “Three to four months ago we got a call about a property that might fit what we were looking for in the Charleston area,” Messner explains. The future donation land accumulated debt from being tied up with a failed bank and ended up in the hands of the Federal Deposit Insurance Cooperation. Once the Messner’s and Shiverick’s became aware of the property, they worked with consulting groups in Atlanta to purchase the land and donate to it to CCPRC.

Messner is excited about the asset this new space will be to the greater Charleston community. “Before we did the transaction, I biked down the West Ashley Greenway a couple of times,” he explains. “I thought, it would be great to get the rest of this greenway groomed properly.” Messner hopes that with the donation, the surrounding land will be cleaned up but stay natural, encouraging people to use the entire length of the greenway. “Then you’re only about four or five blocks from the new park,” he says. Julie Hensley, Director of Planning at CCPRC sees the benefit of the donation from the eyes of the County. “Charleston County citizens are the beneficiaries of this donation,” she comments. “This new property will provide a future park site with passive recreation opportunities.”

The future of the recently donated park space remains uncertain, but several ideas are being tossed around as to how best use the land before any formalized plans develop. Messner mentions turning the space into an “outdoor hub” for hikers, bikers, and kayakers. “You could load everyone up into one car, throw your bikes and kayaks on the top, and do as you please,” he says, enthusiastically. Hensley notes that plans for the park cannot be developed until after receiving public input. “But, we are very excited about the opportunities for trail connections offered by this site. It has the potential to serve as both a trailhead for the West Ashley Greenway and a stopover point along our proposed Water Trail.”

Both Messner and CCPRC hope that this donation will provide an example for other areas around the state to conserve land as greenspace that was a part of the real estate crisis. “It makes the best out of a bad situation,” Messner says. Hensley agrees, commenting, “This future park site protects about 50 acres of marsh, a 12-acre marsh island and 25 wooded highland acres, protecting a variety of important habitat areas for wildlife.”

For more information on the Limehouse Point donation, call CCPRC at 795-4386.


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