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New Park Site Donated to Charleston County Park & Recreation Commission
[CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC] -- Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission (CCPRC) is the recipient of recently donated park property known as “Limehouse Point.” This 87-acre site is located approximately one-half mile west of the current terminus of the West Ashley Greenway on the north side of the Stono River, just west of the John P. Limehouse Bridge on Main Road.
The property includes approximately 50 acres of marsh, 25 acres of highland, as well as a 12-acre island. It provides stunning views of the Stono River and excellent opportunities for bird watching, kayaking and other nature-based recreational activities.
This latest addition to CCPRC’s parkland holdings was made possible by the advocacy and persistence of Jenny and Mike Messner and their friend and business partner, Paul Shiverick, and his wife, Betsy. The Messners and their Speedwell Foundation support conservation initiatives around the country through a research effort called Red Fields to Green Fields (www.rftgf.org).
As Mike Messner describes:
“"Red Fields to Green Fields’ is a program managed by the Speedwell Foundation and the Georgia Tech Research Institute that has studied the landscape of a dozen cities across the United States, researched the potential of converting underutilized urban real estate to green space, and built coalitions between private and civic interests around the notion that few things so genuinely improve the livability of cities as parks and green spaces.”
The Messner/Shiverick partnership conserved the Limehouse Point property and donated it to CCPRC.
Two other members of the team that made this future park possible were Rialto Capital and Yukon Property Consultants, both operating out of Atlanta, Ga. Rialto Capital is an FDIC contractor that has administrative responsibilities for assets from failed banks, including the disposition of land that secured non-performing loans. Yukon Property Consultants facilitates conservation projects primarily for commercial banks and other types of financial institutions.
“The FDIC and banks across the country have billions of dollars of non-performing loans and foreclosed properties like Limehouse Point,” reports Yukon manager, Walter Hall. “The opportunity to convert such assets to public use has never been better, but the financial architecture to make it happen is relatively new.” Hall adds that, “With conservation entrepreneurs like the Messners and the thoughtful cooperation of Rialto, it’s easy to imagine that many projects like Limehouse Point Park could be created. Historically, commercial banks and the FDIC would simply have worked to sell such properties to the next generation of developers. Such fire sales dramatically erode property values and do little to promote the common good. We now know how to make such projects successful without direct financial support from Charleston County tax payers.”
Tom Hartnett, Jr., of Hartnett Realty Company (an advisor to the transaction), feels that “Charleston has long been a place where conservation has occurred, but with the exception of activities in the ACE Basin and beyond, Charleston has been more about historic resource conservation than natural resource conservation. Interestingly, despite the importance of places like White Point Gardens to tourists, Charlestonians are more likely to use and enjoy the West Ashley Greenway and other similar passive parks.”
As for the future direction of the property, Julie Hensley, director of planning for CCPRC, notes that interested citizens should understand that it might be a matter of years before appropriate uses are determined and a park is developed. “Without conducting a master planning process and receiving public input, we cannot provide specific details about the future use of the property, but we are very excited about the opportunities for trail connections offered by this site,” says Hensley. “It has the potential to serve as both a trailhead for the West Ashley Greenway and a stopover point along our proposed Water Trail.”
While CCPRC Executive Director Tom O’Rourke is excited about the future public access opportunities afforded by the Limehouse Point property, he is also grateful for the creative leadership exhibited by Messner and Shiverick.
“Our agency actually has many goals in common with the land conservation community, but with parks there is an inherent public benefit,” says O’Rourke. “We feel fortunate that Mr. Messner and Mr. Shiverick consider CCPRC to be the appropriate recipient of the Limehouse Point property, and we are thrilled that Charleston County citizens will be the ultimate beneficiaries of their generosity. Their philanthropic approach, combined with CCPRC’s stewardship ethic, will guarantee that this future park site is enjoyed for generations to come.”
The mission of the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission is to improve the quality of life in Charleston County by offering a diverse system of park facilities, programs and services.
Download Photos of Limehouse Point at this link: http://www.ccprc.com/DocumentCenter/Index/238