John McCann has been mayor of the Town of Hilton Head since 2018. He is past president of Port Royal Plantation and past chair of the Technical College of the Lowcountry Foundation. McCann answers questions from Monthly about the U.S. 278 Corridor Project and his favorite spot of relaxation on Hilton Head Island. The responses have been edited for length and clarity.
1. What is an upcoming development project on Hilton Head Island that you are most excited about and why?
One that truly is amazing to see happen is development of our mid-island tract. This is a beautiful 103-acre tract right at the center of our island. Our project calls for preparation of development plans for a best-in-class community park on the Town-owned portion of this tract, which was the former Planters Row Golf Course. (The project) is also about the community around the park and how the project will serve as a catalyst for redevelopment in the area. We have a well-respected team of consultants, led by MKSK, who will be helping us define our vision for this park, the surrounding neighborhoods and future economic development.
2. What aspects of the U.S 278 Corridor Project plan are most encouraging to you?
What aspects do you think can be improved and why? The project will significantly impact traffic onto and off the island, the historic Stoney community and inevitably the entire community since everyone who comes to Hilton Head Island has to pass through Stoney. One of the most encouraging signs of progress is that we are at a stage where our consultant, MKSK, Beaufort County and the S.C. Department of Transportation are working together. We have heard and are addressing concerns about saving land that Gullah Geechee families have owned for generations, preserving communities, disrupting businesses as little as we possibly can, and creating a well-thought-out strategy. We have had a lot of public input, but as time moves on, we will need more. I don’t want people to get weary. I want to ask the public to stick with us on this project. Their input is so invaluable.
3. Are there parts of Hilton Head Island that visitors may not be aware that are worth exploring?
There are many exciting and diverse spots to visit on this island and our Town’s Office of Cultural Affairs is working with many of our local cultural organizations to make sure that we are also telling the stories behind these destinations. We have developed an interactive Cultural Trail map that lets visitors (and residents) explore our public art and history sites and pairs them with our 66 miles of leisure pathway. This map will let you travel by bike, foot or car and guide you to these public cultural sites all across the island where we’ve incorporated digital experiences at many of these sites. You can scan a QR code at Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park and hear Executive Director Ahmad Ward tell you the story of the first freedman’s community in the United States. I scanned the digital experience at Zion Cemetery on 278 and learned it is the location of gravesites of four Revolutionary War patriots. Such fascinating things to see, do and learn on Hilton Head.
4. How do you envision Hilton Head’s growth in the next five years?
Hilton Head Island’s growth is not just limited to what’s happening on the island, but encompasses what’s happening in our neighboring communities of Bluffton and Hardeeville. Population wise, the island isn’t experiencing significant increases, so it’s important that we work on those facets of our community to attract families, workers and other visitors, such as workforce housing. We have people who live in Bluffton, Hardeeville and beyond, but work on the island. We would love for them to consider living on the island and become a part of the community that they contribute to. Last year, our Town Council adopted Our Plan, our 2020-2040 comprehensive plan. This plan is the foundation on which we are building our strategic plan goals and objectives, which are centered around the William Hilton Parkway Corridor Project, workforce housing, the mid-island tract, census redistricting, parks and recreation, parking, economic development and other issues. We want to make sure our residents come first.
5. Do you have a personal favorite place in Hilton Head to relax or enjoy activities?
I enjoy walking on the beach. I live three blocks from the beach in Port Royal. I don’t get there as often as I would like to, but when time permits it’s the perfect place to go at sunrise or sunset for a relaxing stroll or personal meditation.