Charleston park undergoes $5 million renovation

Colonial Lake has a reputation among students as a prime running spot. This city-owned park at the corner of Broad Street and Rutledge Avenue is around three-quarters of a mile from the center of campus, which provides a perfect warm-up for runners.

“I started running to Colonial Lake about a year ago,” Ellie Flock, sophomore at College of Charleston, said. “It was a nice loop of about two miles from my dorm, and I enjoyed how pretty of a trek it is.”

The lake is surrounded by a historic, quintessentially Charleston neighborhood, which provides excellent scenery for anyone who visits the park. The lake is about half a mile around, surrounded by a wide sidewalk. Since the lake’s completion in the late 1800s, it has been a beloved hallmark of downtown Charleston. However, its age is starting to show. When visiting, one notices the deep cracks in the sidewalk, the limited seating, the lack of trees and low water levels reveal a muddy bottom.

The Charleston Parks Conservancy has partnered with the City of Charleston and the Historic Charleston Foundation to completely remodel Colonial Lake Park. After completion, the Charleston Parks Conservancy says they hope the “renovation will transform Colonial Lake into a public park similar in quality to the City’s Waterfront Park.”

The city will completely replace the cracked sidewalks, enhancing aesthetics and pedestrian safety. Additional lights will keep pedestrians safe after dark, and Rutledge and Ashley Avenues will be narrowed to slow surrounding traffic.

In addition to changes that keep pedestrians safe, the city aims to make the lake more beautiful. They will install a new lake water management system so that water level and quality are better regulated and add garden space with shade trees and even a line of live oaks along Ashley Avenue. New benches will surround the lake, and its four corners will gain new gathering places.

The total cost of the renovation is $5 million. The City of Charleston is supplying $4 million, and the Charleston Parks Conservancy is raising the remainder through private donations. Renovations are scheduled to begin next May and are scheduled for completion in July 2015.

Although park goers will enjoy the final product, they might not like the process. Colonial Lake will be closed through the entirety of the renovation. Harry Lesesne, executive director of the Charleston Parks Conservancy, said, “We looked at… leaving parts of it open during construction, but that significantly extended the construction timeline and increased the cost substantially. In order to keep the costs down, reduce the construction phase… and minimize disruption to neighbors, the City decided to close the park for the duration of the project.  However, the roads surrounding the park should remain open throughout the project.”

For college students, losing a year of running around Colonial Lake is not a happy thought. Some have tried to keep a positive attitudes; Flock said, “I’ll be honest. That’s going to be a major inconvenience to a lot of runners… However, as a student… while my running routes may have to change, I think it’s important to keep in mind how much good this could do for the city as a whole.”

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