Timely completion of the facilities and programs presented in Section 4 requires an organized approach to detailed planning, funding, and implementation. Construction of capital facilities requires that the Foundation coordinate with several public agencies, particularly the Greenville County Recreation District (GCRD), the City of Greenville, and the Western Carolina Regional Sewer Authority (WCRSA). Implementation of environmental educational programs will require the involvement of the Greenville County School District, the University of South Carolina, Clemson University, Furman University, Wofford College, and other educational organizations. The discussion in this Section presumes that all of the capital facilities being constructed in Phase 2, as described in Section 4, are successfully completed.
Capital Project Development
Mauldin Road Park Entrance and Environmental Education Center:
Detailed planning of the joint use park complex on Mauldin Road has already begun. Currently GCRD, the Greenville Little League, the City of Greenville, and the Conestee Foundation are actively engaged in discussions to work out the arrangements and funding strategy for development of a combined park entrance off Mauldin Road for the Lake Conestee Nature Park and the Little League Baseball complex. GCRD has budgeted $4 million in Hospitality Tax funds for this complex, including renovation of the existing stadium. These funds would cover construction of a well designed entrance to the park complex and joint-use parking facilities for both the Little League Baseball fields and the Lake Conestee Nature Park welcome center, main trailhead, and environmental education facilities. Beyond this step, completion of the Nature Park welcome/environmental education center will require the following:
- Completion of a detailed facilities plan, including functional design criteria (purposes to be served), sizing, layout and design criteria development, architectural and landscape renderings, and planning level cost estimates.
- Securing the approval of the SC Conservation Bank (which was a major source of funding for the 41 acre Forrester property on which this facility will be built) for construction of baseball fields on a small portion of the property in exchange for securing the 15-acre riparian buffer along the east bank of the Reedy River for inclusion in the Lake Conestee Nature Park.
- Development of a strategy to secure funding for the complex.
- Detailed design and construction.
- Work with the Upstate Native Plant Society to determine what, if any, participation they would like to have related to native plant gardens, etc., and how they propose to implement this involvement.
Swamp Rabbit Trail from Henderson Avenue Trailhead to I-85:
Greenville County Hospitality Tax funds for design and construction of this portion of the Swamp Rabbit Trail are already allocated to the Foundation for 2009 as part of the GCRD Transportation and Civil Engineering Program. GCRD and the City are working together to hire a single design engineer for both the City’s portion of the Swamp Rabbit Trail (Greenville Tech south to I-85) and the Conestee Foundation/GCRD’s portion (I-85 south to existing Conestee Phase 1 Paved Trail). The Conestee Foundation supports the concept of retaining a single qualified design engineer for the two projects as well as contracting construction to a single firm. The following actions are required on the part of the Conestee Foundation:
- Actively participate in the discussions between the GCRD and the City to establish a basis for retaining a single design firm.
- Work with the selected design engineer in the determination of appropriate design criteria for the joint projections.
- Continue to work with the GCRD and the City throughout the design, bidding, award, and construction phases of the project.
Should the joint approach to design and construction of the Swamp Rabbit Trail not materialize, the Conestee Foundation must work with GCRD alone to accomplish the above tasks and to coordinate the tie-in of the two separate portions of the Swamp Rabbit Trail.
Henderson Meadow Area Facilities:
Before proceeding with detailed planning and design of the possible facilities described in Section 4, the Foundation must investigate the need/desirability of the proposed facilities with appropriate stakeholders. Only after determining that there is a real need/desire for any or all of these facilities, and that the facilities will be well used if constructed, should the Foundation proceed with fund raising, planning, design, and construction. The stakeholders and interested parties include:
- Amphitheater: GCRD; Greenville County School District; various other educational systems, including universities and colleges; environmental organizations
- Picnic Pavilion and Picnic Tables: GCRD
- Community Gardens: community leaders and citizens; representatives of local churches
- Native Plant Society Greenhouse: Native Plant Society
- Public Event Center (“Event Barn”): GCRD; Greenville County School District; various other educational systems, including universities and colleges
Following a determination that there is a real demand for any or all of these facilities, the Foundation must proceed to identify funding sources, obtain the needed funds, and design and construct the facilities. In the case of facilities which would be funded and constructed by others, such as the Native Plant Society Greenhouse, the Foundation must develop acceptable design criteria to ensure that the proposed facility is compatible with the nature and vision of the Park.
Other Capital Facilities:
In regard to all other capital facilities, with the exception of facilities constructed by the City on the capped landfill property, the Foundation should first review the facility’s concept and need with the GCRD. Under the existing operations and maintenance agreement with GCRD, that agency will operate and maintain the physical aspects of any new facilities. Therefore, before any new facilities are designed and constructed, GCRD must approve funds and manpower for their operation. Only after obtaining the concurrence of GCRD should the Foundation proceed with fund-raising, planning, design, and construction of these new facilities.
The Foundation will take the following actions in regard to signage at the Lake Conestee Nature Park:
- Prepare a formal policy regarding the sale of naming rights for individual facilities as a fund raising tool.
- Develop a more descriptive and user-friendly trail and boardwalk naming policy for facilities already constructed or those that will be paid for by the Hospitality Tax Program.
- Develop formal standards for the appearance of Park signage and for signage on public roads directing people to the park.
- Determine which areas of the trail system are suitable for interpretive signage and develop a list of subjects for possible future interpretive signs.
Education and Research Program Development:
Prospective education and research programs have been generally described in Section 4. A specific and comprehensive program will be developed in the future in collaboration with education stakeholders. Implementation of this program will require securing sustainable funding that will support day-to-day operations and staffing needs. This education program will require the Conestee Foundation and GCRD to determine their future respective roles in directing and operating the program.
The extension of the paved Swamp Rabbit Trail north from the existing trail system to connect to the City-funded trail at I-85 is already funded by the 2009 Hospitality Tax Program. The 2009 Hospitality Tax Program also includes funding for additional natural surface trails and boardwalks on the existing lakebed and Henderson Farm properties. Construction of a Mauldin Road Park entrance and trailhead parking will result from completion of a successful agreement between GCRD, the City, Greenville Little League, and the Conestee Foundation. Due to the availability of funding, these projects logically can be considered Phase 3 of the Park capital improvement program. Specific trail/boardwalk projects of Phase 3 include the following, in addition to the main paved Swamp Rabbit Trail up to I-85 (Figure 4-2):
- The trail/boardwalk along the east bank of the Reedy River from the Mauldin Road entrance trailhead south to the farthest stable location on the edge of the open water of the lake with a view across to the dam and the mill.
- The boardwalk connection from the Phase 2 Paved Trail across the lower end of Marrow Bone Creek to the existing trail south of the existing observation deck.
- A simple loop trail in the Henderson Farm Meadow connecting with the existing Phase 1 Paved Trail. (This should be a natural surface trail until the final arrangement of facilities in this area is more firmly established.)
- The paved trail extension extending west from the Phase 3 Swamp Rabbit Trail to provide access from the Augusta Acres subdivision through the 81-acre parcel recently transferred to the Foundation by the City of Greenville.
- An observation deck in the east lobe of Lake Conestee near the new Mauldin Road park entrance.
Development of the Welcome Center and Environmental Education Center is the highest priority facility with no current funding. The Foundation’s fund raising and planning efforts should be heavily focused on this key facility. Development of formal educational programs and research efforts are highly dependent upon completion of this facility.
Simultaneously with planning and fund raising efforts for the Welcome Center and Environmental Education Center, the Foundation should implement detailed planning for facilities in the Henderson Farm meadow. An extension of the paved trail system up to the Donaldson Center (Figure 4-2), while important, is of somewhat lower priority than the other facilities. However, the Foundation should begin exploring possible funding sources for this trail. If a funding source can be confirmed, this trail can move up in the priority list.
Development and implementation of signage policy should commence as soon as possible. The cost for signage is much less than for all other facilities presented in this Master Plan.