Originally created 04/25/06

Officials view plan for park



AIKEN - Aiken City Council got its first in-depth look at a landscape plan Monday for a park at the corner of York Street and Richland Avenue.

The one point that all of the council members agreed on was that the plan required closer scrutiny at a future work session.

The landscaping plan for the vacant lot, which measures less than a third of an acre, included a fountain inside a gazebo, walking paths and parking for about 15 cars.

Susan Kleinbub, an Aiken landscape designer who devised the plan, said a Charleston, S.C., park was her inspiration for this green space.

The price tag of the park was not discussed. However, City Manager Roger LeDuc said the project could be financed by $200,000 in tax increment financing that the city has had on hand since 1994 or as a budget item in coming years.

The city authorized the expenditure of $240,000 in January to buy the $275,000 lot. The Aiken Corp., an independent economic arm of the city that works to revitalize downtown and surrounding areas, raised $35,000 from private donors to make up the difference.

Although the purchase price of the downtown property has been a contentious issue at previous meetings, council members and residents focused on the design plans Monday.

Dacre Stoker, the executive director of the Aiken County Open Land Trust, raised concerns about the impervious surfaces in the design.

"When we have a rain event in Aiken, and it falls on this park, the water will go into Hitchcock Woods," he said.

Mr. Stoker also said that he hoped the park would include only native vegetation so that seeds from nonnative plants would not be washed into Hitchcock Woods.

Aiken resident Margaret Marion wondered who would use the park.

"I fail to see many people driving to this place to use the park, and I don't know what they would be using it for," she said.

She feared that it "might attract people with time on their hands."

Michael Anaclerio, a member of the Aiken Corp. and a former city councilman, said the park is intended to be "something nice to look at" instead of a gathering place.

At the request of council members, Ms. Kleinbub agreed that the next renditions would include side views of the park from Richland Avenue and York Street. She also agreed to incorporate suggestions from city council and audience members into the plan.

Reach Betsy Gilliland at (803) 648-1395, ext. 113, or betsy.gilliland@augustachronicle.com.