Her hair flying, Adriana Williams gleefully raced around the grass in Bluffton’s Field of Dreams, her Disney’s “Frozen” kite soaring above her.
Williams and her dad, Jason, were one of the many families that came out to play on a sunny and breezy first Saturday of the New Year.
About 40 people were enjoying the park and equipment. The swings were full of happy toddlers, kids of all ages were clambering over the Imagination Train and parents chatted as they watched youngsters burn off excess holiday energy amidst giggles and shouts of laughter.
The playground is part of the Oscar Frazier Park Complex that includes baseball fields and the community center, currently the meeting space for the Bluffton Town Council while the town hall is being renovated.
The town-owned facility is the result of initial efforts 16 years ago by the Rotary Club of Bluffton. Fund-raising projects involving grants, businesses and generous individuals built the community center in 2004.
The building and grounds were donated to the town and the original master plan was set aside until 2016 when the Rotary Club started a committee to work with the town to develop the grounds for a public park.
“The community has grown so much that we need more than one park,” said Bluffton Councilman Dan Wood. The town’s first playground at DuBois Park on Lawrence Street has been very busy since it opened in 2013.
Since the installation of the playground equipment, it has been busy most days, including the recently opened Bluffton Dog Park across the street, a long-planned project led by Friends of Bluffton Dog Parks.
Wood said there were 35 people in the dog park one day when he stopped by to check on how people were using the complex.
“It just confirmed everything we believed would happen,” he said. “This was built by the community for the community. It wasn’t just going to be the Rotary doing this.”
Even when it’s not sunny, the Field of Dreams has its fans. Angela Carmean who founded Moms Who Stroll, said her group uses it for exercise with their little ones. On a recent drizzly day, she and Lorelei DeMarr got a few turns around the paths.
“They keep adding to the park, so it’s a nice place to come and walk,” said Carmean.
The play area with the train and swings was a fundraising project undertaken by the 2018 Hilton Head-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce leadership class. Funding also came from the Rotary Club of Bluffton, the town, and in-kind donations from local businesses.
The grounds are about to get another infusion of fun, thanks to this year’s leadership class, said Dot Jeger, Rotary Club past president and the current Rotary Foundation Chair.
Following a groundbreaking at 1 p.m. on Jan. 19, construction will begin on a pavilion with an arts display area and restrooms.
“There will be sensory walls for children and a very special secret piece of art,” Jeger said.
Local well-known artist Amiri Farris will create a mural inside the pavilion and a rotating artwork will be provided by a series of successive sources, beginning with M.C. Riley Elementary School.
One of the fundraisers for Phase I was the sale of dedicated pavers that are part of the walkway. Individuals and businesses could purchase a stone with their names on it.
Jeger said that would continue to be part of the new section and anticipates that part of the walkway will be installed by the art wall.
Wood said having at least one park in Bluffton is a plus when it comes to drawing new residents and businesses to the area. “You can’t even envision a nice town anywhere without a park,” Wood said.
The first phase cost $150,000; this second phase will cost $167,000 and will include landscape and hardscape upgrades as well as the pavilion construction and community arts display.
Phase III, expected to begin this fall, will cost $178,000 and provide for a wide pathway around the entire park, continuing what has already been set in place, irrigation upgrades and sodding of the open space, electrical and security upgrades and community seating areas and bench swings.
Phase IV is expected to include a formal event area and an interactive water fountain “splash pad,” according to the Field of Dreams brochure.
“This would not have happened at all without Dot’s leadership,” said Wood. “She comes up with the ideas and the rest of us just do what she tells us to do.”
Jeger said there were plenty of ways for the community to get involved and are listed on blufftonrotary.org.
Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.