Progress on town's public projects continues despite pandemic

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Work at Lowcountry Celebration Park on the south end of Hilton Head Island has continued in spite of the coronavirus pandemic. Here, workers check concrete forms at the Adventure Playground. COURTESY TOWN OF HILTON HEAD ISLAND

There was a sliver of silver lining in Hilton Head's public works projects this spring amid the pandemic.

Fortunately, there was no work stoppage or major disruptions over the past three months. Contractors and staff took no time off, and the only blemish was minor supply-side issues.

"There was no forcible or discretionary shutdown," said Scott Liggett, director of public projects and facilities and chief engineer. "We've been working hard all spring. There's no material change to any of our schedules because of the virus."

Here's the summary of major projects:

• Lowcountry Celebration Park: After a year of construction with a price tag of $13 million through tax increment financing, Liggett is hopeful the park will be open to the public in September.

"I'm looking forward to it being concluded," he said. "It will be a nice facility when it's done and will hopefully be well received."

Among the abundance of amenities are a replica of Capt. William Hilton's ship, a destination playground, leisure trails and a boardwalk around the lagoon, a Sandbox Children's Museum, a large lawn and performance pavilion for concerts and other events, new restrooms, exercise stations and additional parking.

A new traffic signal was installed on Pope Avenue at the park's main entrance across from Lagoon Road, and a new crosswalk and traffic signal were placed on South Forest Beach Drive.

• Unsignalized crosswalk lighting (on U.S. 278): Liggett said he's hopeful the project will be completed by September, but construction start-up lagged because of a prolonged land acquisition process.

"It's taken longer than anticipated to acquire the easements to the point where council had to authorize condemnation for us to install the streetlights," he said. "The project is under contract, but it has not started yet. I'm hopeful to begin in the next 30 days. Given the nature of the need, I wasn't expecting it to take this long."

Once the lighting is installed, public hearings will be held to further develop the pilot project at 10 other locations islandwide.

• U.S. 278 traffic signals near Shelter Cove: Liggett noted that the intersection improvements of new traffic signals and turn lanes along the 1-mile strip of land from Shelter Cove Towne Centre to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office on Shelter Cove Lane have been completed.

The $1.5 million capital improvement included a full-service traffic signal at Shelter Cove, two full-length turn lanes northbound at Kroger, and 20-foot-high overhead pole-mounted crosswalks.

Among other town projects are the construction of a new Fire Station No. 2 on Lighthouse Road. The old firehouse was demolished in the spring and the new one should be operational in spring 2021.

"It was a necessary improvement in our fire rescue plan," Liggett said.

Additionally, the Jarvis Creek pump station received a $2 million upgrade in the spring, and the northeast portion of Main Street at Hilton Head Plantation was resurfaced.

With the pandemic forcing the shutdown of many local businesses over the past several months, many residents mistakenly believed the Town of Hilton Head Island had shut down as well.

"We were happy to have had the work we do," Liggett said. "A lot of folks stopped me here and there in my private life, kind of with the expectation the town had shut down and we weren't doing anything, Frankly, quite the opposite was true."

Lowcountry resident Dean Rowland is a veteran senior editor and freelance writer.

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