Big things are coming from the Aiken County Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department starting this budget year, according to Assistant County Administrator Brian Sanders.
Aiken County Parks:
- Aiken County Recreation Center
- Boyd Pond Park
- Harrison-Caver Park
- Roy Warner Memorial Mark
- Listine Gunter Courtney Senior Center
Satellite Parks (unstaffed):
- Veterans Park and White Pond Community Center
- Earnest Weaver Park
- Beech Island, SC Area Parks
- Belvedere, SC Parks
- Horse Creek Area Parks
- Boating and Fishing in Aiken County
- According to the Aiken County website (www.aikencountysc.gov.)
A little more than a year ago, the County contracted with Clemson University’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management to develop a master plan for recreation, with a purpose to give the County recommendations to better serve the community.
The plan showed the County ranked last in per capita recreation funding compared to other counties with recreation departments in the state. Dr. Bob Brookover, director of Clemson’s Institute for Tourism Research and Development, said, since a year ago, the per capita funding numbers have stayed about the same.
The department can spend between $20,000 to $40,000 on maintaining parks, but developing them can range depending on available grants and sales tax.
“Our sales tax program generally funds, depending the type of work we do, from five to seven years,” Sanders said. “The first year we may not have any projects, but then year three it could be all over the board. We use sales tax money and grants, and it doesn’t always work fast, but it works.”
Aiken County spends $8.61 per capita on recreation, which a year ago was most comparable to Florence County which spends $12.90 per capita on recreational needs.
Brookover told Aiken Standard that the City of Aiken spends about $150 per capita on recreation, while the City of North Augusta spends about $152 per capita.
To make up for the funding disparity, Brookover recommended the County divvy up some of its smaller and less-used recreational resources, or even contract with other entities to operate and maintain certain facilities.
Sanders said the County has gone from about 24 parks to 22 or 21, giving one back to Burnettown and another to Salley. He said the County plans on giving back three or four parks in the next two to three years to other entities.
During a past Council work session, a few Council members voiced concern about the maintenance of some of the smaller County parks. Council member Kathy Rawls said while the department has concentrated on the larger parks like Langley Pond, it might be time for the smaller parks to be taken over by communities.
“That happened in my area with Perry Park,” Rawls said. “There’s a push to try to give all these small parks back to the town or community that they were in so people there could take care of them and maintain them.”
Brookover also recommended the County develop a rebranding or marketing campaign for its more well-known resources, like Boyd Pond and Roy Warner Park.
Sanders said the County has retired its smiley-face logo and instead is using the current County seal to rebrand the department. However, the department is still looking to create a new, fun logo for all to enjoy. From a marketing standpoint, parks like Langley Pond have reaped marketing benefits, like hosting hundreds of visitors for the annual rowing Regatta.
Sanders said he understands the reality of funding for the department and what they can spend.
“We’re not sitting around satisfied, whining and moaning,” Sanders said. “One time the department was the pride of the County, and we will get there again.”
Maayan Schechter is the local government reporter with Aiken Standard.