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Pigeon Point resident and Beaufort City Councilwoman Donnie Beer can remember when her community's park was in such decay that residents reported used syringe needles near the worn-out playground equipment.
One of the city's success stories, Pigeon Point Park has since been transformed into a haven for children and a relaxing open space for all, Beer said.
Soon it will have a new feature to entice residents.
Beaufort won a $50,000 state grant to complete a three-quarter-mile walking trail that will weave through the park's live oaks.
The grant application highlighted the benefits of a walking trail, like promoting a healthy community and drawing residents into parks and open spaces, said city parks superintendent Liza Hill, who applied for the grant.
The grant requires Beaufort to contribute $12,500. The city will perform in-kind services to meet that requirement, including designing and constructing the trail and installing swing benches along the path, Hill said.
Work on the trail likely will start in February or March and must be completed by March 2011, according to grant guidelines.
"It won't take a year, but since we're doing the labor with our parks staff, it's going to be completed as time allows," Hill said.
About three years ago, the City Council allocated more than $300,000 for park renovations, which included a new playground, parking, lighting and other assets. The council later funded a $65,000 bathroom facility near the playground, Hill said.
A trail was part of the original design for improvements completed by Wood + Partners Inc., a landscape architecture and planning firm, but the city didn't have the money to complete it at the time, she said.
The trail might deviate from its original layout to wind through the live oaks and other vegetation that has been planted since the plan was drafted, Hill said.
The city Parks Department will create the walking path with plantation mix, a material often used for trails and sometimes driveways that creates a hard surface that allows rain to seep into the ground rather than run off, Hill said. Preventing stormwater runoff helps protect local waterways from pollution. The trail will be handicapped accessible, she said.
Both Hill and Beer said they expect the trail to make the park even more popular.
Initial improvements more than three years ago helped spark a revitalization of the entire neighborhood, said Beer, a Pigeon Point neighborhood association member.
"When you take pride in one thing and make it better, other people say, 'Hey, gee, maybe I ought to fix my place up, too,' " Beer said. "The park certainly has brought a lot of happiness to the children and families in this area."