A CALL TO ACTION
Written by Charlie Wetmore
ave you ever been walking along a street or driving in your car and noticed something that needed to be done? Something that made you think: “Why doesn’t somebody do something about that?” Well, if you are like most people – at that point you will end up shaking your head and moving on, resigned to the belief that it will probably never get done. Well, this month I would like to encourage you to change your thinking when you run into a situation like that.
Bluffton and the surrounding area has grown so fast that some things have been missed or lagged behind. Sometimes, someone will notice a need and bring it to the attention of the town or the county. That happened when Karen Heitman and friends formed Greater Bluffton Pathways. They saw a need for safe ways for pedestrians and cyclists to move about the area. Most noticeably, this has led to pathways along Buckwalter and Bluffton Parkways.
After some parents (myself included) noticed the lack of safe ways for children to walk and bike to schools, they met Karen and others. This led to a request for crossing guards and pathways around and inside the Bluffton Schools Complex. As of earlier this year, that need has been met. This has resulted in hundreds of children now walking to schools where no children walked less than two and a half years ago.
There is currently a group of citizens leading the charge to get a Skate Park built in the Buckwalter Regional Park. One is already planned, but this group is asking the town and county to move the build date up on it. They have offered some persuasive arguments and have won my support as well as that of others. I would not be surprised to see the Skate Park as the next project in that park.
There is another group that approached the town awhile back and asked for property to be set aside in the Buckwalter Regional Park for a Dog Park. They offered to raise the money to design and build the park as well as to maintain it once it is built. The Town Council of the time agreed that it was a good idea and agreed to set aside the land in the Regional Park for it: All as a result of a request by citizens.
There was a father who asked us, when the town and county were considering banning golf carts on the pathways, to make an exception for disabled people or families with someone who was disabled (like their autistic son, who has improved dramatically since they got their golf cart). Because of this, there will be an exception for these situations in the town and we will be asking the county to do the same.
While some things are noticed by citizens and brought to the area governments for action, other things are brought to the citizens for action. Bluffton is a town where the government loves to involve the citizens in deciding what they are going to do.
The development of the Old Town Master Plan to direct and guide development in the original square mile of town was one that the town brought to its citizens to decide. There were public meetings where big maps of the town were spread out on tables and people were asked to dream about what Old Town should look like. Where should the houses and businesses go, where should the parks be, how many should there be and so on. The citizens guided the plan and ultimately came up with what we have today.
The Buck Island/Simmonsville neighborhood is currently going through the same process. This is a neighborhood with families who have lived in the Bluffton area for generations mixed in with families who are relatively new to the area. It is a neighborhood attractive to developers eyeing it for commercial, residential and possibly apartment developments. The town is going through a series of meetings similar to the ones held to develop the Old Town Master Plan. These meetings will result in a plan for the area that will result in a neighborhood pleasing to those who live there.
There are many other projects in the town that have received and/or are still asking for citizen input. There is a Streetscape Project for May River Road, the design of the Oyster Company Park, the continued development of the Buckwalter Regional Park and more. I encourage you to attend the meetings on these projects and give your input. I encourage you to attend Town Council and Planning Commission meetings and to speak up. It is much needed and will be much appreciated.
I titled this month’s Talk of the Town article “A Call to Action” for a reason. I wanted to show that YOU can make a difference in the town of Bluffton as she moves forward. The next time you are somewhere in town and see something that needs to be done, don’t shake your head and move on. Take the time and effort to help to improve that something. And, in the end, you may see a better Bluffton because of it.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns at:
Council Member, Town of Bluffton