The town of Bluffton has plans to turn a 760-acre parcel of undeveloped land into a large public park. Plans include an open-air picnic shelter, more than 4 miles of hiking and biking trails, and kayaking and canoe trails along the New River. Plans also call for two camping sites. The town council is expected to vote on the proposal in the coming months. 

The 134-year-old St. James Baptist Church on Hilton Head Island has to leave its original property because it’s at the northern end of the airport’s newly expanded runway. In 2018 the airport finished a 700-foot runway addition. Making the runway longer allowed larger planes to land there — but also extended the federally mandated “runway protection zone” over both St. James and the Old Cherry Hill School. St. James Church is the oldest continuously-operating cultural institution remaining within Mitchelville, the north-end village established for freed slaves in 1886, according to church leaders. The town’s plan is to purchase the school and St. James, relocate the schoolhouse building in its original form, and build the new church, according to town materials. 

ARCHAEOLOGY PROJECT HOPES TO FILL IN GAPS IN HISTORY

As a child growing up on Hilton Head Island, Thomas Barnwell Jr., saw his dad let people break off souvenir pieces of a tabby ruin that sat, crumbling, on their Squire Pope Road property. Today, the University of South Carolina Beaufort and the Barnwell family have partnered in an archaeology project that sees the tabby ruin as a key to the past.

HILTON HEAD PREP STUDENTS DONATE BLANKETS

As part of their annual winter outreach program, students from Hilton Head Preparatory School’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes made dozens of fleece blankets for the Sandalwood Community Food Pantry to be given to those in need. The students also delivered the blankets to the recipients. 

PERFORMING ARTS CENTER PLANNED IN BLUFFTON

Two local organizations have teamed up to bring a performing arts center to Bluffton.

Live Oak Christian Church and Main Street Youth Theatre are combining their efforts to build a cultural arts center on property the church owns near Old Town Bluffton. The 400-seat venue, leaders of both groups say, will have a variety of uses, from housing the church to theater productions by local and national talent, plus uses by other local organizations.

HILTON HEAD OFFICIALS FOCUS ON PEDESTRIAN SAFETY AHEAD OF NEW PARK OPENING

New life was breathed into Hilton Head Island’s midsection thanks to Shelter Cove Towne Centre, a resort village-style retail center fashioned from a nearly abandoned suburban-style mall. With apartments overlooking Broad Creek, a waterfront park, restaurants, boutiques and walking paths, Shelter Cove has become a popular gathering place with an energetic atmosphere. 

The Beaufort County School District held two groundbreaking ceremonies in January for the first two referendum-funded projects at River Ridge Academy and May River High School. The projects will cost over $25 million and construction is expected to conclude late-summer 2020. Four new classrooms are being built on each of two existing wings at River Ridge, and a new eight-classroom wing also is being added for a total of 16 new classrooms. At May River High, a new two-story wing containing 23 classrooms is under construction. 

parkerBeaufort native Ron Parker announced his retirement from the NFL in January. The defensive back played for the Kansas City Chiefs for the past five years. He gave no indication for what’s next, including for the annual football camp he hosts each year in Beaufort. 

ruckerLong Cove Club, in partnership with Darius Rucker and the University of South Carolina, is hosting the ninth annual Darius Rucker Intercollegiate Golf Tournament presented by Kroger and PXG. The tournament will be held March 6-8. Top women’s teams from around the country will travel to the island to compete for the title. Spectators are welcome at no charge. For more information, go to www.longcoveclub.com.

TREY BLACKSHEAR 

BLACKSHEAR

Hilton Head Island lost a soccer standout two days before Christmas. Trey Blackshear, 18, was killed Dec. 23 in the Lord of Life Lutheran Church parking lot in Bluffton in what police say was an attempted robbery. Blackshear had just graduated from Hilton Head Island High School on Dec. 19 and was preparing to enroll in college in January to play soccer, according to his obituary. He also played club soccer for Tormenta FC Academy.

The docks at Palmetto Bay Marina have officially reopened after Hurricane Matthew destroyed the marina in 2016. Wet slip rentals will be available beginning at the end of this month. Palmetto Bay Marina, LLC, took ownership of the property in 2019. As the renovations continue, the marina will construct several new aluminum docks with space for about 144 boats. 

A mound of debris has finally been removed from Able Construction in Okatie after forcing 30 nearby residents to evacuate last year. The mound smoldered for months, creating fumes and releasing a foul odor in the area. More than 115,000 tons of debris were removed from the site. DHEC declared Able Construction’s fire a federal Superfund site and has since ordered a closure process for the facility. 

The Town of Hilton Head Island wants to extend a property tax assessment that would raise $65 million if approved by voters in May. The Town Council would use the funds to improve parks, recreation and arts organizations. The tax assessment would replace the special hurricane assessment that taxpayers approved in 2016 after Hurricane Matthew.

IT’S NOT EASY TO MAKE MATH FUN, BUT MICHELLE GORDON MAKES IT LOOK AS EASY AS PI

Do you know which side of the chicken has the most feathers?

If you do, you’re either really good at riddles, or you’re one of the lucky students in Michelle Gordon’s math class at Bluffton High School. The chicken riddle recently was her “joke of the day,” one of many ways she likes to lighten the mood when teaching a subject that many students dread.

BLUFFTON IS THRIVING, BUT GROWTH GETS MIXED REVIEWS

It’s no secret that the town of Bluffton is experiencing a growth spurt. In the late 1990s, it was a 1-mile hamlet with fewer than 800 residents. Today, it’s 54 square miles with a population estimated at more than 23,000.

Its growth is only going to continue. Bluffton is only 44% built out and, when all is said and done, its population might reach 75,000, according to town officials.

ALL SAINTS GARDEN TOUR NAMES GRANT RECIPIENTS

The 2019 All Saints Garden Tour grant recipients included Jasper Backpack Buddies (Antioch Educational Center), Backpack Buddies of Bluffton, Backpack Buddies of Hilton Head Island, St. Stephen’s UMC Outreach Food Bank, Hilton Head Safe Harbour and The Literacy Center. This fall, these charities each received their awards of $5,675 from the 2019 Garden Tour. 

The 33rd annual All Saints Episcopal Church Garden Tour is scheduled for May 16.