Saturday, March 9, 2013
The topic of environmental impact in regard to Project Jackson is a hotly contested one. Both sides have strong, barbed opinions on the subject.
For the residents of the city, there are just too many questions that cannot be answered at the moment. However, Mayor Lark Jones wants North Augusta to know that the negativity on the project, particularly in regard to Brick Pond Park, is unwarranted.
"I said a couple of years ago that it would sort of be like Central Park is to New York City," he said. "We were expecting, in some shape or form, development to occur in the rest of the area down there - more houses, more commercial development and this would still be a spot, like Boeckh Park on the riverside of Hammond's Ferry. This will be like an interior amenity."
The detractors of the project, however, warn of what the increased traffic and congestion could do to the park.
"I think the project, because of its density and the traffic it will create, is going to essentially ruin Brick Pond Park," said Dr. Frank Carl, Savannah Riverkeeper science adviser. "Center Street will become very, very busy and create a problem for the park. Another problem is that the more timid animals will leave; they won't stick around. A third problem is that it will create runoff problems for the river that don't go through the cleanup process that the brick ponds provide. ... I don't think the park can take that kind of traffic."
Jones does not believe that the development will create any issues of the sort.
"Those things that are going to be built down there can co-exist peacefully with one another," he said. "If you have ever been to Hilton Head, you have stayed in condos, and you've seen alligators in ponds next to your condo and you wonder should they be there or not. But that's where they live."
Jones also points to renderings of the project, which show that there would be no overlap. In fact, both the potential stadium and its surroundings would be adjacent to the park.
Despite this, Carl believes that the ramifications of the project would be devastating.
"You don't have to bulldoze the park to ruin it," he said. "The park could be ruined by what you put next to it. In this case, it's a very high-density development that they're proposing putting next to it and, environmentally, it's a problem."
Carl also believes that the brick ponds would be jeopardized, and their function as a filtration system would be reduced. But he also said the ponds will not completely lose their functionality.
"The brick ponds and the plants around them are what take a lot of the contaminants out of the water before it goes into the river so that the water is cleaner than it was before," he said. "Building the project between the brick ponds and the river will affect the brick ponds as it will eliminate the plants on that edge. It won't completely negate the ponds' function as a water filtration mechanism.
"I don't know what percentage to put on it, but, even if they build the project, the brick ponds will probably still be about 75 percent as functional as they are now. That's just an educated guess."
Jones also points to the history of the area and that, even if the functionality is reduced to an extent, the area is still strides ahead of where it was a decade ago.
"Even if that is true - and I'm not acknowledging that it's true because I just don't know - and we did nothing about it to remediate it, we would still be better off than where we were when those were clay pit scum ponds," he said.