It has been quite a month for the Bluffton Library. The community center fully reopened Jan. 3 after a 10-month-long renovation that created more open spaces, an updated design and a tech overhaul for the library.
But that’s not all, folks.
A group of community leaders has plans to transform a 1/3-acre greenspace in front of the library into the town’s newest pocket park.
Each year, as part of the curriculum for the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce Leadership program, a group of budding community leaders must pick a community enhancement project to tackle. The 20 leaders behind the 2022 Leadership class have taken on the planning and buildout of what they’re calling the Bluffton Library Park as their project.
“I mean, go big or go home, right?” said 2022 class member Sally Zuniga, the co-owner of Tio’s Latin American Kitchen. “We know we’ve undertaken an ambitious project here but any chance we get to beautify the town we love, you got to go for it.”
The Leadership class has been cultivating future leaders for the past 35 years. Some of the more recent community projects completed include the creation of the Mitchelville Visitors Center, the DuBois Park playground in Bluffton, and fitness equipment installs at Jarvis Creek Park on Hilton Head Island and Oscar Frazier Park in Bluffton. An Imagination Train playground and sensory playground were also added to Oscar Frazier, thanks to the future leaders class, as well as wayfinding kayaks at the arrival point on Daufuskie Island and the Follow the Fiddlers sculpture along Calhoun Street to educate about marine life and May River ecology.
The Bluffton Library Park involves many different tiers of community interaction to complete. The vision includes the installation of the county’s first StoryWalk program, a series of reading materials and interactive installations along a walking path meant to promote literacy, reading, health and movement that have been added to more than 300 libraries across the U.S.
Plans also call for updated landscaping, new seating, an event stage and a new pathway for visitors coming to the Library from Bluffton Village.
“How cool would it be to hear some local music, a poetry slam or a reading from a local author out in a fresh-air setting? That’s the goal. I know I would love to see it for my family,” Zuniga said.
The mission of the class is to collaborate with municipal leaders to develop a master plan and execute the planning, permitting and construction of the park before a May deadline. The Witner, Jones and Keefer architectural design firm has developed a conceptual plan and the group is working with Ward Edwards Engineering to move the planning process along in concert with town officials.
The biggest challenge is the price tag. The class estimates that they will need to raise $40,000 to complete the park and is now hard at work raising awareness of the project among their many circles of contacts.
The group is accepting tax deductible contributions through the Hilton Head Island Regional Partnership Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization. And it has created a number of opportunities for community members to leave a permanent mark on the park with their donation.
Donors who give $100 to $999 will have their name engraved on a paver along the new library walkway. Old Town tier donors ($1,000 to $2,499) will get a plaque with their name along the StoryWalk installation. May River-level givers ($2,500 to $4,999) will get their name engraved on one of the new park benches. The most generous Oyster level donors ($5,000 or more) will get a name plaque installed on the new park stage.
The park group has also received marketing support in reaching donors from DX Print and Mail. Zuniga said the inclusiveness of the community is what will make achieving the creation of the park all the more sweeter.
“This is what it’s all about. We have leaders from all corners of the business and nonprofit community here,” she said. “We’re all engrained in Lowcountry life and part of what makes living here so special is the constant selfless displays of goodness in making this place even more special for generations to come. We’re all stewards and keepers of a way of life.”
Zuniga said that while the Leadership class has been a huge time investment as she juggles running two restaurants and raising three kids, it is an investment in the community that she can’t recommend enough.
“The Chamber is investing in us as future leaders, and that’s such an honor. It has been a winning formula for three-plus decades,” she said. “The privilege to be part of something bigger than yourself and to pay forward all the support we have been given by this community, it’s humbling. I know every single one of us are to that challenge. We all can’t wait to see this park become reality and just add another little slice of heaven to our town.”
For more information on the Bluffton Library Park project and donate to the cause, visit blufftonlibrarypark.com.
Tim Wood is a veteran journalist based in Bluffton. Contact him at email@example.com.