The City of Darlington will begin additional improvements to Williamson Park next week, Aug. 20. The project will replace the three-foot-wide walkway at the back of the park with a five-foot-wide boardwalk to match the others along the trails.
“This will complete the park's main loop with a wide walkway to accommodate families and more people in general,” said City of Darlington Planning Director Lisa Chalian-Rock.
Henley's Construction of Cheraw will install the 410-foot long walkway, and work is expected to be complete by the end of September weather permitting. The locally owned company has completed similar projects in Folly Beach, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head, Garden City, Murrells Inlet, and Charleston as well as previous work in Williamson Park.
The elevated boardwalk will cross Swift Creek between 10 and 12 feet from the smaller bridge that masks the appearance of a sewer pipe.
“The new structure will be bringing this area of the park up to par with all the other bridges and boardwalks,” Park committee chair Brad Odom said.
The size of the current bridge makes it difficult for folks passing in opposite directions to get by each other. An Eagle Scout project improved that structure four years ago replacing rails and trying to strengthen it, but the bridge has returned to a fairly poor condition.
Following construction, the old bridge will remain as is for the time being but may eventually be closed to foot traffic with a barricade and sign in the coming years.
“Additionally, we are improving the area by adding an observation deck near the center of the park adjacent to the main stream. This will allow visitors a place to relax near the water, listen to the babbling brook, soak in the majesty of the cypress trees, and genuinely appreciate the wilderness to be found within our city limits,” Odom said.
That area will be 16 feet by 8 feet with benches lining the perimeter for visitors to stop, enjoy, and rest.
While the plans have the path drawn as straight lines, the boardwalk will curve slightly around two large cypress trees in the general vicinity of the planned route, and there are no plans to remove any trees.
“Every tree in the park has great value,” said Bill Ervin of Ervin Engineering.
During the four to six weeks of construction, residents will notice several changes. The terrace steps made of railroad ties will be removed during construction for equipment to pass more easily, but these will be reinstalled once the boardwalk is complete. The city also will block a short section of Williamson Park Drive near James Street and North McCall Street, as lumber and equipment will be stationed on the road until used.
The construction will not impede the Darlington 5000, the annual 5K run/walk to benefit the park. That event is scheduled for Sept. 14, beginning at the Public Square.
The project will cost $98,500, of which $75,000 will come from the city's 2-percent hospitality tax fund and the remainder will be paid by the Williamson Park Committee.