Work begins on first-of-its-kind park in Forest Acres

Published: Oct. 13, 2022 at 10:27 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 14, 2022 at 7:04 AM EDT
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FOREST ACRES, S.C. – (WIS) Construction work has begun on a new park in Forest Acres, which aims to revitalize a pocket of the city that flooded in 2015 and fallen into decay.

The park will be located behind Forest Lake Fabrics along Forest Lake Place Drive, which is off Forest Drive, and will offer scenic views of Gills Creek.

City officials say the park hopes to offer something for everyone: plenty of green space, recreational space, and an opportunity to go fishing in the creek.

Both city leaders and people who live nearby say have been lacking in the community.

The park will also include a memorial to Forest Acres’ fallen police officers Greg Alia and Richey Finch, a splash pad, food truck parking, and a small performance venue.

“We needed a space for that,” Forest Acres City Administrator Shaun Greenwood said. “And we’d been using the parking lots of some of our local shopping centers to do that, and this is an opportunity for us to have a space of our own.”

This will be the first park of its kind in Forest Acres to showcase its urban waterway, and the fifth park total.

Both properties being consolidated as part of the park were donated to the city following catastrophic flooding in 2015.

Construction crews are in the process clearing out all the silt from the creek that had been left behind from the “thousand-year flood.”

City officials hope that this work, combined with clearing out all the debris in the creek, will make the area less flood-prone once the park opens.

“Part of what we’re doing is we’re rehabbing the stormwater system and how everything drains in the park to help alleviate those issues as well,” Greenwood said.

The nearby bridge is closed to all traffic and pedestrians as this work continues. The flood-damaged bridge will also be replaced as part of the project, in an effort to make Forest Acres more accessible.

The park construction portion of the project will be funded with $2.8 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act money, and the city secured $1 million in last year’s state budget to replace the bridge.

Forest Acres only covers five square miles. With this limited space, Greenwood said the city must get creative with its developments...

“We’re surrounded by other cities or Fort Jackson and so we cannot expand out,” he said. “So everything we do as a city we have to look at maximizing the space that we currently have.”

Brenda Vandegrift lives next to the site of the park. She said it could be a benefit to the community, but she has some concerns about the increased traffic and potential noise it could bring.

“I just hope for everyone that it’s going to be something that we can all enjoy, and I hope that it won’t be more minuses than pluses,” she said. “I’m hoping it’s going to be well-received and people having respect for our privacy and to be thoughtful of other neighbors regardless.”

According to the city, there will be increased police patrols in the area when the park opens.

WIS asked Greenwood about noise concerns from those in the surrounding neighborhoods regarding the performance venue.

“We won’t be bringing Def Leppard or whoever other kind of band you can think of to that space,” he said. “We’re really kind of talking about one person with a guitar, maybe a small amplifier, acoustic performances.”

This weekend some of the area’s top performers will be taking part in the Picnic in the Park with Town Theatre and Forest Acres concert series.

City leaders believe this event could be held at the new park in the future.

Forest Acres City Council is still in the process of naming the park, and is taking suggestions from the community.

The new park is expected to be open to the public in 15-18 months.

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