I love the start of a new year, because it gives me a chance to look back on the previous one and see what was accomplished and what we can do better.
As you will see below, we were very busy in 2019. We also continue to grow as a town - both with new residents and commercial construction, so we have to be diligent in getting the word out on what is going on all over our 54 square miles.
Even with all of the positive accomplishments, we can always do better and this will be a topic of discussion and action all of 2020. But for now, I would like to brag on what the town has accomplished that enhances the lives of all of our residents and visitors:
• The town purchased a 37-acre parcel which includes the 2,700-square-foot iconic barn structure visible from Highway 46. Nearly 300 residents attended an open house last November to give feedback on the use. A workshop to further discuss plans will be held Jan. 21.
• The new Martin Family Park at 68 Boundary St. was completed with open space and numerous Adirondack wooden chairs available for use. It also provided approximately 60 new parking spaces, public restrooms and open space for community events. The 1.47-acre parcel is located adjacent to DuBois Park and the Heyward House.
• The Town installed 1,900 linear feet of 5-foot-wide sidewalks with street lighting on Buck Island Road. This project also protected a cluster of live oaks in front of Grayco, as contractors installed a boardwalk vs. concrete sidewalks, allowing the trees and their roots to continue growing.
• The Town completed the first phase of the multi-year, multi-faceted construction of the Wright Family Park, completing the boardwalk and bulkhead at 111 Calhoun St. Construction is currently underway for the park, which includes a large central lawn, walkways, parking, landscaping, site furnishing, lighting, fencing and public restrooms. This will be the Town's second park providing public access to the May River.
• Partnerships are very important. Through a partnership with 50 Red Swings, we installed two adaptive playground swings at Oscar Frazier and DuBois Parks. A second partnership was with a Bluffton resident, Jessica Deckert Long, who worked with us to get four sunscreen dispensers install at our public parks and docks.
• We have also partnered with Beaufort County, Jasper County, the Town of Port Royal, the City of Beaufort and the City of Hardeeville to develop a Regional Stormwater Ordinance and Design Manual to protect the region's coastal waterways. This new manual will assist developers with parallel stormwater regulations and management standards throughout the region.
• Through the efforts of the Don Ryan Center for Innovation and partnerships with regional economic development leaders, the Town received commitments of nearly $15 million dollars of private investment in 2019 with the potential of creating nearly 80 new jobs.
Watterson Brands moved its corporate headquarters from Chicago to Bluffton, bringing nearly 20 jobs. Watterson Brands is the parent company of Burnt Church Distillery. The Gullah Market, which is proposed for Washington Square located on Buckwalter Parkway, is a 10,000-square-foot, $3 million facility designed to sell locally sourced seafood and produce. The Gullah Market has the potential to create 25 new jobs.
• Our police department continues to play a large role in our community and believes in community policing. I am so proud of our men and women in blue and look forward to a safe 2020. A new program they took on in 2019 is the Lutzie 43 Campaign. This is integrated into every facet of the Town through awareness campaigns and partnership with community leaders and youth organizations for a Hands Free S.C.
For more information about our accomplishments and programs, visit TownofBluffton.com.
Lisa Sulka is the mayor of the Town of Bluffton.