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The Hilton Head Town Council endorsed a proposal Tuesday to build a rowing and sailing center along Skull Creek after organizers reached a compromise with the native island community that would add crabbing, net casting and other activities.'
The plan has been in the works for more than two years by a coalition of various rowers and boaters who said the town, its boating clubs and students lacked a sufficient public storage facility and launch point. '
The council approved adding the $1.5 million project to its capital improvements budget, about $500,000 of which would be donated by the boating community.'
The plan ran into opposition last year from some native islanders who worried that land in their neighborhood would be used for the center without their input.'
The town-owned site consists of 2.4 acres on Squire Pope Road that once held the seafood co-op, a fishing and community staple from the 1960s to 2001. '
Native islanders came up with several suggestions, including shrimping and crabbing lessons and a Gullah market. Those activities would expand the center to include educational and cultural activities, community members said.'
"This site that we are talking about, gentlemen, is a very historic site to our neighborhood," Curtis Barnwell, president of the Stoney/Squire Pope Property Owners Association, told the council Tuesday. "If these are not implemented into the property, I'm telling you right now, people will be coming up and saying, 'We don't want this rowing and sailing center at all.' "'
Center proponents, including members of the South Carolina Yacht Club and local rowing clubs, said they were happy to work with the community to incorporate some of the suggestions. '
"We rowing and sailing (people) do not see a conflict here," said Dave Erdman, president of the Palmetto Rowing Club. "We wouldn't want to be in a neighborhood where basically everyone is against us."'
Deputy town manager Chuck Hoelle said the town could design the project in the fiscal year starting July 2008 and construct it the following year, though those dates could change.'
Advocates for the center have already drafted a proposed layout for the site, an operations budget and a fundraising plan.