by Laura Bailey
he Pritchard Street Park is a cozy haven created at the end of Pritchard Street in Old Town Bluffton. It is fashioned from a beautiful piece of land on the May River, not only for our enjoyment, but also to promote The River Protection Overlay District (RPOD) and the use of native plants.
The Bluffton River Protection Overlay District consists of the portion of the May and New Rivers that are contained within the South Carolina Coastal Carolina Critical Area and the uplands adjacent to these areas extending one hundred fifty feet.
The purpose of the RPOD is to preserve an undisturbed maritime forest along the banks of Bluffton’s rivers to meet four important objectives: to provide a natural habitat for flora and fauna; to retain the visual character of the rivers; to minimize erosion and help stabilize the banks; to provide for the removal of sediments, nutrients, and potentially harmful or toxic substances in storm water runoff entering the waters.
No development is permitted within the district with the exception of uses such as single family dwellings, pedestrian accessways, boardwalks, erosion and flood control structures, playgrounds, and gazebos.
The park land has been home to many native species of plantlife. Native species are those which are natural to the environment from which they evolved. Plants evolve over time in response to a region’s climate, soils, rainfall, drought, frost and interactions with other species. Native plants possess traits which make them uniquely adapted to local conditions. They provide a practical and ecological alternative for landscaping. Natives can surpass the finest cultivated plants in beauty, ruggedness, and resistance to drought, insects, and disease. Ninety percent of the plants in Pritchard Street Park are native and can easily be obtained at local nurseries.
The Benefits of Growing Natives
• Native plants are more likely to thrive within the Lowcountry with little maintenance. Once established in an appropriate area, most natives are hardy and do not require watering, fertilizers, or pesticides, which saves time and money and reduces the amount of harmful run-off threatening the aquatic resources of our rivers and estuaries.
• Native plants provide sources of food and shelter for wildlife. As natural habitats are replaced by urban and suburban development, the use of native plants in landscaping provides vital shelter for displaced wildlife. Using natives allows the creation of distinctive natural landscapes including woodlands, meadows, and wetlands with unique Bluffton character.
•Native plants attract a greater variety of butterflies, hummingbirds, songbirds and other wildlife than traditional lawns. In fact, the greater the variety of native species included in your landscape, the more likely rare or uncommon species will be attracted to your yard.
• Native plants offer an abundant variety of color, form, and texture to gardeners and landscapers. The Lowcountry has a large variety of grasses, ferns, wildflowers, shrubs and trees to choose from that meet anyone’s landscaping needs.
Facing the May River to the left of Pritchard Street Park is the Pritchard House. Dr. Paul Fitzsimmons Pritchard, rice planter and physician, built the first Pritchard House which was burned by Federal troops on June 4, 1863. His son Charles rebuilt the house in the Carolina style that you see today, and every room of the house has a door leading to the beautiful grounds.
High on that bluff at the end of the park’s trail sit three benches with plaques dedicated to nine youth who have passed away. Along with this precious memorial of benches is a covenant for the living in Bluffton, a reminder of the social and cultural truths we aspire to as a community.
If you visit Pritchard Street Park, you will find not only the beauty of the land and the respect of our citizens to keep it that way, but also a feeling of pride, sadness, and joy. The Pritchard Street park is a wonderful gift for everyone to enjoy.