Community battles to keep public park after Richland Co. Recreation Commission makes changes

Community battles to keep public park after Richland Co. Recreation Commission makes changes

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Changes to a public park in Richland County are being met with opposition from some residents.

“They have done construction in the park. They’ve made changes on the inside. They’ve put up walls to build offices. We want those walls to come down,” said Helen Bradley, a former Richland Recreation Commissioner.

Community members say the recreational building at Bluff Road Park in Lower Richland County has been converted into office space for the Recreation Commission’s adaptive programs for residents with special needs. Because of these changes, community members say valuable space, including an indoor basketball court, is now lost. Now, residents along with former Richland Recreation Commissioners Helen Bradley and Rev. Charles Epps are fighting to keep the facility they helped build for the community.

“I believe they should have gotten citizen input about the program they are going to bring to the community of Bluff Road Park,” said Charles Epps. “Again, we are not against having an adaptive program, but we are against taking our park away from us.”

Richland County Recreation Commission Executive Director Lakita Watson says she does recognize the importance of community input in this case.

“I wish we could have done better so we could have avoided some of this miscommunication,” said Director Wilson. “But what we did do once we found out the community was receiving this communication, our board called a special phone meeting and we did hear from three to four citizens that are in that community to include a representative from that area.”

Watson added she has heard these concerns but hopes the community will eventually see the positive impacts these changes will have for all residents in the area.

“We have the intention to ensure that all of our citizens regardless of their age, the economic status, their gender, and their ability should have access to our facilities,” she explained.

The park is scheduled to reopen to the public next week after being closed because of COVID-19 and the board has made no plans to change their decision.

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