Crystal Lake

Committee Membership:
Peggy Allard – Co-Chair
Frank Gibson – Co-Chair
Joe Allard – Lowcountry Master Gardener Association & South Coast Chapter of the SC Native Plant Society
Heather Doray – Beaufort County School District
Diane Fisk – LowCountry Master Naturalist Association
Jim Hicks – Beaufort County Planning Commission
Billie Lindsay –Beaufort County Planning Department
Kathryn Madden – Executive Director Port Royal Sound Foundation
Jon Rembold – St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce
Clarence Washington – Community Representative

Information References:
Preservation Tree Care
2006 Beaufort County Council Crystal Lake Interpretative Center Resolution
2011 Beaufort County Council Private Public Venture in Passive Parks Resolution
2011 Tree and Topographical Survey - Gasque and Associates
2010 Wetlands Survey - Gasque and Associates
2010 Engineering Survey – Andrews Engineering, Gasque Surveying
2006 Past Conceptual Designs – Land Plan, Montgomery Architecture & Planning, INC
Port Royal Sound Fund Proposed Crystal Lake Grant

Executive Summary:
In response to a request by Mr. Anthony Criscitiello, Beaufort County Director of Planning, a Friends of Crystal Lake Committee was formed in November 2010 for the purpose of providing Beaufort County with a community sponsored plan for the development of Crystal Lake as a passive park. The committee included representatives of the Beaufort County Planning Department, Beaufort County Planning Commission, Beaufort County School District, the community adjacent to Crystal Lake, St. Peters Catholic Church, Port Royal Sound Foundation, the Master Naturalist Association, the Master Gardener Association and the Native Plant Society. Information was solicited from a variety of sources to include Preservation Tree Care, Andrews Engineering, Montgomery Architects and Land Plan Inc. The committee solicited public comments and recommendations regarding development of the lake property at seven public meetings and conducted two surveys. Based on the results of these meetings and surveys it is recommended that (1) on a priority basis efforts be initiated to provide public access to the Crystal Lake property (2) development of the lake property be accomplished on a phased basis and (3) the private sector be queried in the form of a “Request for Proposal” to determine the viability of a private - public venture for support of the operation and maintenance of the park. A simplified version of the recommendation for the Crystal Lake property is to “clean it up, fix it up, and open it to the public”.

The Crystal Lake property consists of a 6.8 acre lake, 4 acres of wetlands, and 15 acres of uplands plus the building which served as the former home of Butler Marine. The lake was contributed to Beaufort County by the Stewart Family Trust in 2006 with the understanding that it would be utilized as a park. The surrounding property was purchased for $3.2 million as part of the Rural and Critical Land Program.
In 2006 Beaufort County Council passed a resolution supporting consideration of an Interpretive Center as part of the final development of the property. Beaufort County in cooperation with the Trust for Public Land has completed an engineering study, 2 conceptual plans for development of the property and a tree survey. Following the initial purchase of the property in 2006 Butler Marine continued to occupy the site on a rental basis until 2009 at which time the building provided office and laydown space for the construction company building the additional span of the McTeer Bridge. This arrangement continued until 2011 and the facility, at this time, is vacant.

Friends of Crystal Lake Park:
In November 2011 a citizen’s committee in cooperation with the Beaufort County Planning Department was formed for the purpose of developing a community sponsored plan for the development of a Crystal Lake Park. The committee adopted the following mission:
Provide a plan for the development of Crystal Lake as a Community Owned Passive Park based on the following pillars as guiding principles:
              Environmental stewardship
              Promote education of the Lowcountry's natural resources
              Passive recreation.
The committee will remain in existence throughout consideration of the proposed plan for development by Beaufort County Council. Once an official direction is established, reorganize the committee in such a manner as to support the long term operation of the park, if such action is deemed appropriate by Beaufort County.

Protocol for Development of Plan:
The committee participated in the Beaufort County Planning Department three day planning form based charrette by manning a public service table which provided information regarding Crystal Lake, displayed conceptual plans from previous efforts, and solicited recommendations as to preferred uses for the park. The preferred uses for the park received at the charrette were included in an internet community survey sponsored by the Lady’s Island Business and Professional Association to determine the degree of support for each of the proposed uses. Simultaneous with the survey, public meetings were held at which technical information (legal requirements for public private ventures, overview of past engineering and conceptual studies) was provided to the committee and attendees. Utilizing the recently adopted Beaufort County policy for public private ventures, information was distributed to the local business community regarding the new policy in an effort to ascertain possible interest in such a venture. To determine the basic potential of the property the Master Naturalist, Master Gardener, Audubon Society, SC Native Plant Society and the Beaufort County School System were requested to submit opinions of possible future uses of the park in their respective areas. The final committee recommendations for the development and use of the park were a result of all of the above.

Public Private Venture:
The Crystal Lake property has a facility and parking area (former Butler Marine building and parking lot) with access to Rue De Bois Drive which could be shared with a private enterprise in return for operational support of the park either financial or “in kind” support. Beaufort County has recently established a policy for such public private ventures on property acquired through the Rural and Critical Land Program. To avoid any appearance of exceeding its basic charter the committee limited its efforts in this area to advising the business community that such a venture might be considered and could be a subject of public solicitation. The announcement that a public private venture might be considered with the park resulted in a sufficient number of inquiries to merit the issuance of a “Request for Proposal”.

General Concept for Development:
Recommendation I: Based on the information received from the community it is recommended that Crystal Lake Park be developed as a passive park in the following phases:

     Phase 1 - Safety: Conduct a survey of the existing fence followed by repair for those portions needing repair and erect fencing for those areas without a fence. Make such repairs as necessary to the existing facility to make it a viable and safe structure.
Attention is invited to the fact that the existing facility is supported by a septic system and to support a public bathroom may require connection to the nearby sewer line.

     Phase 2: Conduct such engineering studies as may be necessary to allow construction of a trail around the lake and determine the feasibility of a children’s playground. Release a “request for proposal” for a joint private-public partnership to determine the feasibility and desirability of allowing a private business to operate in the existing facility in return for support (financial or in-kind) in the operation of the park. Investigate feasibility of using the school parking area (football stadium) adjacent to the park.

     Phase 3: Authorization and construction as necessary for the following prioritized (based on the results of the community survey) projects/uses:
                    Walking nature trail around the lake.
                    Children’s playground
                    Interpretive Center (dedicated to part of the existing facility)

Recommendation II: That the following programs be planned for inclusion in operation of the park:

Audubon Society Program (Appendix 1)
Interpretative Center (Appendix 2)
Public Gardens (Appendices 3 & 6)
Nature Program (Appendices 4 & 6)
Science Program (Appendix 5)

     Grants: Port Royal Sound Fund: The Port Royal Sound Fund has offered 2 grants of $15,000 each in support of the development of Crystal Lake. Grant 1 is to be utilized in support of an outside park project such as walks, trails or viewing platforms. Grant 2 is to be utilized in the development of an interpretive center. Release of these grant funds requires a development plan approved by Beaufort County and an organization qualified to receive such funds. This grant offer will be voided after June 1, 2012.

Explore potential for solicitation of additional grants as well as community and local business support.

(1) Audubon Society
(2) Crystal Lake Interpretive Center
(3) Lowcountry Master Gardener Association
(4) LowCountry Master Naturalist Association
(5) Science Programs
(6) South Coast Chapter of the SC Native Plant Society

Organization: Audubon Society
Submitted by: Kenneth J. Scott, 11 Woodlake Drive, Lady’s Island
Subject: Proposed use of Crystal Lake Park.

It is proposed that Crystal Lake be designed in such a manner as to continue to provide our many nesting birds a safe and appropriate habitat since these are becoming less and less available to them due to the human impact on such areas.

Of the geographic regions of South Carolina, the coastal zone has been the most impacted by human habitation and disturbance. Everyone wants to live near the coast. This pattern will continue into the foreseeable future. But the Sea Islands with their rich diversity of habitat also attract a great number of
species of birds that nest on the islands, winter here, or pass through during migration.

Our Sea Islands are directly on the Atlantic flyway used by numerous birds migrating south in the fall and north in the spring. For these migrant birds who use our area as food and resting sites, areas such as Crystal Lake are critical.

As compiler for the Audubon Lowcountry Christmas Bird Count, I can attest to the large number of birds which winter on Lady’s Island. They like many of our human “snowbirds”, use our island to escape the northern cold. We need to accommodate both.

As a resident of Lady’s Island and a board member of the local Audubon Society, I support development of the Crystal Lake site as a passive recreational area. Crystal Lake would be a great asset to the community and would provide recreational opportunities for residents and visitors. The Crystal Lake passive park will provide a place of rest and relaxation for human as well as avian residents and visitors. With our tradition of environmental protection I hope we will continue to engage in preserving our wonderful natural habitats for ourselves and for future generations.

Appendix 1

Submitted by: Kathryn Madden, (Master Naturalist, SC Secondary Science Educator, Executive Director of Port Royal Sound Foundation)

Subject: Proposed use of an interpretive center at Crystal Lake, Lady’s Island, Beaufort, SC

An interpretive center at Crystal Lake is supportive of The Friends of Crystal Lake’s mission and vision in creating a passive park for individuals and families to enjoy while building in opportunities to foster a deeper appreciation and awareness for our environment. The Crystal Lake area is part of and influenced by the Port Royal Sound.

Due to that and the location of a park, an interpretive center provides additional opportunities to help build awareness for our unique salt marsh ecosystem and teach the public the similarities and differences between salt and fresh water habitats. The location is ideal for educational opportunities to teach local and visiting school children how they can become better land and water stewards.

It is proposed, the Crystal Lake Interpretive Center renovates the current building on the property in order to prevent, reduce any additional development. The center should include a room large enough for a classroom/ science laboratory for teachers and students. This classroom could also be used for Master Gardener, Master Naturalist, local workshops, and seminars related to the natural surrounds.

The center might include a map of Crystal Lake Trails, picnic areas, designated wetlands, open areas, etc. Due to the higher temperatures in the summer and early fall months, it is recommended the center provide an air cooled refuge and restrooms for visitors. Perhaps the center has volunteers to welcome the public and answer any questions, help with any potential emergencies, and to open and close the park.

If funding allows, the center should include exhibits about the history and formation of Crystal Lake and also any historical and cultural information about Lady’s Island and surrounding areas. The center might also include exhibits promoting the unique of Port Royal Sound, such as a continual showing of Coastal Kingdom and native flora and fauna exhibits sponsored by local organizations (i.e. Audubon Society, Master Gardeners, and Native Plant Society).

Appendix 2
Organization: Lowcountry Master Gardener Association (LMGA)
Submitted by: Joseph Allard, 18 Audubon Rd, Lady's Island
Subject: Proposed Use of Crystal Lake Park

The purpose of the Clemson University Master Gardener program is to educate the public about sustainable and effective horticulture and environmental practices. The Lowcountry Master Gardeners Association is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to provide continuing education for Master Gardeners, as well as providing support and guidance for the Master Gardener projects. The LMGA serves all of Beaufort County and collaborates with Jasper County.
Crystal Lake Park will provide a unique opportunity to showcase saltwater wetlands, freshwater wetlands and forest, all within easy walking and commuting distance for this region in a public park with access for all of our citizens.
The opportunity to educate our young and adults will be one of the Park's many benefits and is in concert with the objectives of the LMGA.
Wetlands provide homes and refuge to a diverse population of wildlife. The wetlands and surrounding forest provides educational and recreational opportunities as well as tranquility for visitors.
No classroom can replace the opportunity to see trees and plants in their natural environment. It can become an inspiration for how we can all improve our island as well as our own backyards or patios.
A future purpose of Crystal Lake Park could be realized with the addition of a community edible garden established in a less environmentally sensitive area away from the wetlands and lake. We would envision this to be established in later phases of the project. Many municipalities, both large and small, have these amenities and they help to raise the quality of life within their community.
To sum it up, our members have already been instrumental in accomplishing several community projects here in the Lowcountry. In 2011, the LMGA was the 4th most active Master Gardener Association in the state, logging almost 4,000 volunteer hours. We work closely with many gardening projects including community gardens, school projects and establishing a Native Plant Garden at the Hunting Island State Park Visitors Center to list just a few. Our major emphasis is on horticultural education, “The right plant for the right place.” This park will be an invaluable tool to show people that through responsible landscaping you can have a beautiful garden and benefit the wildlife and our waters at the same time.

Appendix 3
Friends of Crystal Lake
LowCountry Master Naturalist Appendix

The LowCountry Master Naturalist Association (LCMNA) arose out of a need for a corps of volunteers to provide education, outreach and services that promote the appropriate management of local resources. A master naturalist is a person who successfully completes the Clemson University Extension Service program of study. The program began in 2000 and has graduated over 400 individuals with the designation of master naturalist. Graduates of the program are familiar with basic biological and ecological concepts, identification of common animals and plants of the LowCountry and have an understanding of the habitat management concerns specific to this unique part of our state. Master Naturalists are encouraged to continue to broaden their knowledge through a variety of the associations programs as well as self-study.
With this in mind, the FOCL is a natural fit for the variety of talents the master naturalists could bring to the project. In keeping with the mission of master naturalists to volunteer with nature related projects, serve as interpretive guides and docents, and assist with conservation projects, there are many roles that could be filled with interested naturalists. As the project moves forward, these roles will become concrete.

Respectively Submitted,
Diane Fisk

Appendix 4
Science Programs
Organization: Beaufort County School District
Submitted by: Heather Doray, 84 Sea Island Parkway, Beaufort High School, Beaufort
Subject: Proposed use of Crystal Lake Park

The development of Crystal Lake into a passive park will open up opportunities of learning and stewardship for the children of Beaufort County. The park’s close walking proximity to two schools (St. Peters Catholic School and Beaufort High School) and only a short bus ride from other county schools lends itself to easily become part of science lesson plans and curriculums. Children might be seen learning from a teacher or from a guest speaker in a defined outdoor teaching space or splitting up into groups to try their hand at bird counts. They may be getting close to the water’s edge to collect water samples for testing or you may find them walking the nature trails focusing on plant and tree identification.
While the development of Crystal Lake can do much for the education of Beaufort County’s children, the children and volunteer school groups can do much for the development of Crystal Lake. When the children see the value of such property, they will be more likely to help take care of it. This is a great way to teach stewardship. Student volunteers could provide community service by providing upkeep on nature trails, doing trash sweeps, etcetera.
As you can easily see, there is a positive mutual relationship between the development of this park and the education of our young people. As a science teacher at Beaufort High School, I fully support the development of Crystal Lake, as it provides meaningful learning opportunities for this generation as well as many future generations to come. We are blessed with having such a rich, natural environment that surrounds us, let’s share it with the future so they too can be its protector!
Suggestions for development of the park (if funds allow):
• Nature trails
• Informational signs
• Plant/tree identification signs
• Defined outdoor teaching area with podium or pavilion (could be combined with a picnic area that could also be used to accommodate use from the community as well) where teachers could teach a class or students could listen to guest speakers, such as Master Naturalists.
• Floating dock where students could easily take water samples that would then be used for water testing (pH, dissolved oxygen, salinity)

Appendix 5
Organization: South Coast Chapter of the SC Native Plant Society
Submitted by: Joseph M. Allard, 18 Audubon Rd., Lady’s Island
Subject: Proposed Use of Crystal Lake Park

The South Carolina Native Plant Society is a non-profit organization committed to the preservation and protection of native plant communities in South Carolina.
In addition to native plants being part of our heritage, they are essential in providing food and habitat to the rich biodiversity we have here in the Lowcountry.
Crystal Lake can be a showcase for the diversity of native plants as well as an opportunity to teach the public how to combine all types of plants that will not only enhance the beauty of their own properties but support native birds and other species as well as protect the environment. It will also provide a pleasing place for all to enjoy.
We are fortunate to live in such a bountiful environment. In order to maintain this beauty in the face of continued growth we have an opportunity to improve our quality of life and our property values. One of the immediate benefits to our homes here in the Lowcountry is that using Native Plants requires minimal use of water, fertilizer and other chemicals, minimizing harmful pollutants in runoff. In fact, the use of Native Plants well adapted to growing along our buffer zones required in county ordinances, help to prevent excessive runoff thereby improving water quality even further.
We would encourage the use of low impact paths where possible. This would allow a rich biodiversity to develop adjacent to the paths. By eliminating mowed edges along the paths this would do two important things: it would provide areas where undisturbed natural vegetation would obtain a foothold and it would reduce the expense of mowing. An example would be the hard paths (non-boardwalk portion) formed by unwashed granite fines on the walkways and bike paths through the Great Swamp Sanctuary at Walterboro.
Many of our residents want to learn more about the plants that thrive in this unique coastal region. Crystal Lake Park can be a place where people come and see how native plants can be used to improve their own property. The Native Plant Society volunteers are eager to assist the county in developing this park into an even richer biological treasure that can be educational as well as relaxing.

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