Creating a World-Class Community Destination Park

Lowcountry Celebration Park on Hilton Head Island, SC

Lowcountry Celebration Park is an exciting ten-acre Community Park located in the bustling Coligny Beach District on Hilton Head Island, SC. The park highlights some of the unique historical and environmental aspects of the Island with features that are both fun and educational. Lowcountry Celebration Park is truly reflective of its setting and includes “The Adventure”, a large play structure replicating a historically significant sailing ship; an interactive water feature representing local ecosystems and “The Sandbox”, a new Children’s Museum.

The park is organized around a large central lawn which serves as a multi-purpose event space fronting Pope Avenue, a heavily traveled corridor to the beach and provides much needed open space, a playground and recreation assets in the most densely developed portion of Hilton Head Island. The Community uses this new park as a host site for local art markets, outdoor concerts, festivals, and community events. Lowcountry Celebration Park has acted as an economic catalyst for significant reinvestment throughout the district surrounding the park. Following development of the park, the aging retail center across Pope Avenue was purchased and revitalized with new shops on the street; adjacent retail was renovated and a new five story Marriott Hotel was constructed overlooking the park.

Sustainability was a central component in planning for this park. The park includes a repurposed and expanded stormwater management pond for district wide flood control. Designs for the pond include shallow water shelves planted with native aquatic species to treat and clean storm water and reflect the unique qualities of the Lowcountry. Pervious pavers are used throughout the park in new parking areas. The park includes multiple linkages to the Island’s extensive bicycle paths and a bus shuttle stop with shuttle connections across the island. Regionally sourced and primary materials and design elements used in the construction of Lowcountry Celebration Park are reflective of the Lowcountry. Playground and water feature areas include integrally colored walks are stamped with imprints reflecting local flora and fauna. Playground entry gates include the use of a palm frond design, again reflective of plant material commonly found in the Lowcountry. Public art has been incorporated into the park’s design including placement of The Rising Sun, a bold contemporary piece placed on a pedestal in the stormwater pond.

Project Narrative: Hilton Head Island is a piece of paradise on the coast of South Carolina that is known for its rich history and culture dating back to the revolutionary and civil wars. The Island is widely recognized as a world class destination for its beaches, golf and tourism and a place that thousands call home or their “home away from home”. With many recreational activities rooted in the island experience, the Town of Hilton Head Island endorsed the idea of building a park that spotlights the history and characteristics of the Lowcountry.

Lowcountry Celebration Park is located on Pope Avenue less than a quarter mile from the Atlantic Ocean. This park is connected to, and shares parking with the nearby Coligny Beach Park, which provides public access to the ocean and serves as one of the island’s most desirable beach parks. The area is the most densely developed area of the island and introducing a public open space has long been a priority for the Town. This park provides much needed open space for passive recreation and features multiple amenities and activities for all to enjoy. Design solutions for Lowcountry Celebration Park take their cues from the natural and cultural setting and the park serves as an epicenter for the district as well as a destination for residents and tourists alike.

The Landscape Architect and applicant was selected to lead a diverse team of consultants for the planning and design of Lowcountry Celebration Park. Services provided included master planning through construction phase services. The applicant led team members including civil engineers, architects, site electrical engineers and fountain designers to ensure all facets of the project contributed to a cohesive design. Beginning with concept development, all elements were carefully blended into the design reflecting the unique characteristics of the Lowcountry.

Significant Features: Design solutions include a stormwater pond that serves as a storm water treatment element for the district as well as contributing to the overall aesthetic of the park. This expanded storm water pond serves as a regional detention basin that improves drainage and minimizes flooding during significant rain events. After holding, storm water is discharged into an adjacent freshwater wooded wetland in the nearby Sea Pines Preserve. Improvements were designed to mitigate flooding that previously occurred in the surrounding neighborhoods. Additional best management practices include pervious paving in all new parking areas and the use of native aquatic plant materials along lagoon banks to serve as bio-filters to pretreat runoff. Shelves with aquatic plantings along the pond edges were also introduced for the same purpose.

The “Adventure Playground” serves as the center piece to the park and includes a 1,400 square foot ship named “The Adventure.” This new play feature is a custom designed play structure that serves as a tribute to the island’s namesake and the explorer who discovered Hilton Head Island, Captain William Hilton and his ship. The playground is ADA accessible and includes an interpretive and educational “Discovery Trail” highlighting the unique ecological aspects of the Lowcountry further expanding the educational aspects of play for children. The Discovery Trail includes interpretive signage spotlighting flora and fauna native to the area. The Discovery Trail also includes a beach-coming area, sea turtle zone, and other themed playground equipment further expanding on the Lowcountry educational theme.

An interactive water feature adds additional interest to the playground, beginning with a “Tidal Beach” entry that reflects one of the Island’s unique biomes. The educational experience begins there with water ebbing and flowing to simulate the ocean’s movement. This portion of the water feature encourages water play and includes imprints of shells and plant material typically found in a South Carolina tidal setting. It then moves into the “Mud Flats;” home to oysters and crabs which are also on display. This area includes interactive signage that mimics the sounds of osprey, frogs, katydids and pistol shrimp. Punctuating the Mud Flats is a life sized frog sculpture relaxing on a bench. The water feature ends in a freshwater wetland inhabited by herons and turtles, wildlife commonly found in that environment. Throughout these areas there are additional interpretive signs spotlighting the plants and animals found in each setting.
Overlooking the freshwater wetland is a Children’s Museum. Developed as a joint venture between the Town of Hilton Head Island and the Sandbox Children’s Museum, this new facility offers a variety of hands-on educational experiences that attract families to the park and provide rainy day activities for Island visitors. Inside, patrons can experience an airplane cockpit, run a grocery store checkout, or interact with many other exhibits such as a life-sized sand castle.

Anchoring the park is a large Open-Air Pavilion and event lawn. Designed as a concert venue, the pavilion also provides gathering space for other activities that take place in the park. The openness of the structure invites its use for outdoor classes, small informal meetings, and provides a shady spot for picnicking. Its broad steps connect to a large multi-use event lawn that is home to numerous community celebrations, events, outdoor concerts and pickup games and other outdoor activities. On the opposite side of the event lawn is a restroom building and shuttle shelter. Walks surrounding the event lawn and other areas of the park connect to the surrounding neighborhood playing a critical role in its liveliness. Fitness equipment is located overlooking the pond and alongside the loop trail that encircles the park. Strategically located shade trellises and bench seating provide resting areas throughout.