Eight members of the community, along with The Herald Independent, turned out Friday evening for a public meeting on the proposed walking trail for the Mt. Zion School property. Connie Shackelford, Director of Community Development and grant writer for the Town of Winnsboro, gave a brief overview of the project and fielded questions from the audience.
The Town is seeking a grant for the park from the S.C. Forestry Commission, Shackelford said, and there is no guarantee that Winnsboro will be awarded the $125,000 necessary to make the park a reality. But the park, which is planned as a passive park (a walking trail, benches, but no playground equipment), has been a goal for Shackelford from her first day on the job, she said.
“The first day I got here, I was taken to this area, which is our monument area,” Shackelford said, “and was told one day we would like to see something done with our memorials. I wanted to incorporate that into a nice little passive park that will enhance the whole neighborhood. Right now, it’s just ground, with nothing connected together. It doesn’t really have an aesthetic to it.”
Shackelford also said that the Town hopes to one day include a World War II memorial to the park as well a gazebo.
“This is a phased park,” she said. “This is just a beginning. There would be some other things we could do later on.”
One issue brought up at the meeting was the question of parking spaces built into the new design along Hudson Street.
“That’s our main thoroughfare,” said Polly Parker, a resident of the neighborhood. “That would be the worst place in the world you could put parking. When they come down that road, they’re doing 40-45 miles per hour. I would suggest any other place than right there.”
Shackelford pointed out that people already park along the Hudson Street area to access the grounds, and that the proposed parking spaces are well off the main roadway.
Winnsboro resident Hanna Phillips said she wanted to make sure a section of trees, Crepe Myrtles planted by a local garden club in the late 1970s, would remain. The trees were planted, she said, for the 52 hostages held at the American embassy in Iran, one of whom was from Fairfield County.
Those trees would remain, it was determined, but some larger trees, which are sick and dying, would have to be removed and replaced with new growth. Parker said she was concerned that the park might contain sections of new shrubbery, which she said might provide shelter for drug trafficking. Parker said the sale and use of illegal drugs was already a problem in the area. But Shackelford said the park would not include any low shrubbery. She also said the area would be well-lighted to ensure a safe environment.
Another issue that came to the floor was what kind of traffic would be permitted on the trail. Shackelford said the trail would be intended for pedestrians only – no motorized vehicles and no bicycles or skateboards. Motorized wheelchairs, she said, would be the only exception.
Town Councilman Bill Haslett said the park would be a perfect compliment to the Dru Blair School of Art, which has designs on the old Mt. Zion School building.
“In can see Dru Blair, four or five years down the road when we get him there, I can see him holding art displays out in the field there,” Haslett said. “I can see that as a beautiful place.”
Paperwork for the grant was due to the State today. A 20 percent match will be required from the Town, should Winnsboro be awarded the funding. Grant funds will go out in six to eight weeks, and the Town would have 18 months to complete the project.