To ensure a proper wetland habitat for Reed Creek Park, Columbia County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a $3,800 consultant fee to the Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy.
Columbia County's Commission Chairman Ron Cross
Photo by Jim Blaylock
SNSA runs the Phinizy Swamp Nature Park in Augusta, and Columbia County officials want to use the group's expertise in planning their nature park.
"That $3,800 is a consulting/technical services fee for their experts to review the construction drawings and to incorporate various park components that would lend itself for educational purposes and proper wetland plant material," Columbia County Community and Leisure Services Director Barry Smith said.
"We want them to make sure the park has the correct plant material and the right habitat for the wildlife."
Smith said he hopes the consultations serve as a starting point for further cooperation between the county and SNSA at the proposed 15-acre park across from the Forest Creek subdivision off Furys Ferry Road.
Smith also recently opened negotiations with SNSA officials. If successful, SNSA would conduct educational programs at Reed Creek.
"They'll bring all of their instructors, resources and educational supplies" Smith said. "They have programs in place now at Phinizy Swamp. Basically, they bring their staff. Reed Creek Park would be their Columbia County campus."
The county commission on Tuesday also approved a $374,000 contract with Ammar Construction Co. to build a 300-foot boardwalk and parking lot - the first phase in a three-phase construction project - at the park beginning in the fall.
Future construction at the site includes adding to the boardwalk, erecting an amphitheater and creating a nature trail.
Most of the money for the $1.2 million project will come from 1-cent sales tax funds, with a portion coming from state Department of Natural Resources grants.
Also on Tuesday, several residents voiced their concern about a variance request for Fatz Cafe to hold a 90-day permit for temporary parking at the Evans restaurant.
Besides outlining their objections to the permit, some also criticized commission Chairman Ron Cross for pulling the vote off Tuesday night's agenda because commissioner Tom Mercer was unable to attend the meeting.
"I would really like you to consider what is at stake here," Evans resident Ye Sun Wiltse told the board. "I know it's just one business right now, but I think once we make an exception, everybody else's going to be asking for an exception."
In asking for the permit, restaurant officials have said the existing crowded lot has prompted patrons to park on a nearby side street or the other side of North Belair Road and walk across traffic lanes.
But the county's planning department and planning commission have recommended turning down the request, saying the restaurant has not proved a strong enough hardship.
The commission agreed to discuss the issue at its June 29 meeting.
The county's Emergency Services Division Director Pam Tucker also assured residents Tuesday that plans to build North Columbia Fire and Rescue's new headquarters building next to the Eubank Blanchard Community Center will not impact the community center's use.
Residents who now use the community center to meet or work on projects will still be able to do so after the construction of the fire station.
"It still belongs to the community," she said.
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