FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - The city of Florence is investing $15 million into its public parks system, representing the first time officials have put this kind of money all into its parks and recreation needs.
"Parks and public spaces are essential to redeveloping communities," said Florence City Manager Drew Griffin. "In my 30 years with the city, it's never been done. We've never taken a block of money and say, 'Let's put it back into our community in this kind of way.' We've certainly done a lot of year-to-year appropriations, but never said, 'Let's make our park system kind of new and complete.'"
The goal is for the parks to become a central part of making Florence a better place to live. With the multiple city projects currently moving forward, city leaders said it's only natural to make this next investment.
The project was unanimously passed at a special city council meeting. Plans are to borrow the money and pay it back in 15 years. Leaders agree it's a need the city has wanted to address for decades.
Upcoming park improvements include new signs, public restrooms, new baseball fields, landscaping, new fencing and new parking.
The projects will take five years to complete and Griffin said, in some way, all 15 parks throughout the city will see the benefit.
"We are looking at capital-differed-related activities to be about $2.5 million at least. It could be more than that," he said. "We are looking at facilities improvements in the neighborhood at $8 million. We also want to do some neighborhood connections that would be in the neighborhood of four to five thousand dollars."
Betsy Daniels, a longtime Florence resident, said the parks project is special to her.
"I hope they bring some this way to Levy Park. This park was donated by a black doctor, Doctor Levy, and I've been going to this park ever since I was little, and I am 92 years old and I don't think they should do anything but build it, build it up," Daniels said. "It's been in this community too long to be looking the way it is now."
"The more you bring your core neighborhoods into the downtown structure, the more they are connected, the more likely you are to get more redevelopment activity, and that is what we are after," Griffin said.
Some ground movement on the parks project is expected to begin in the next six months.