Ceremonial start to Discovery Center
by The Press and Standard | June 14, 2018 5:00 pm
Last Updated: June 12, 2018 at 7:22 pm
Past and present Walterboro city officials, joined by others who had a role in the planning for the Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary’s Discovery Center, were on hand June 7 for the center’s ground breaking.
“It has taken many years to get this project finally underway,” Walterboro Mayor Bill Young told the audience at the ground breaking held at the former Glover Motors building at 100 S. Jefferies Blvd.
The project began as the vision of the late City Manager Tuck McConnell, the mayor said.
The original plan was to construct the discovery center off Beech Road, within the Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary. That was back when the unspoiled nature area was named the Great Swamp Sanctuary.
Friends of the Great Swamp Sanctuary Chairperson Moultrie Plowden said about a decade ago, when the discovery center was envisioned off Beech Road, was “not a fortuitous time for raising money.”
The chance of seeking outside funding was then further hampered when the country became mired in a recession.
Looking back on those intervening years, Plowden now sees the difficulty in finding the funds to build a discovery center inside the sanctuary as being fortuitous. “This location is so much better.”
Plowden and Young both recognized those in the audience who played a role in getting the city to the ground breaking. “Thank you for your dedication and commitment,” Plowden said.
“The 7,000-square-foot Discovery Center will tell the story of the Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary and will have live animal exhibits, educational exhibits and static exhibits. It will have a large in-door, multi-purpose event space,” Young said.
The change of address, the mayor suggested, will turn the discovery center into a downtown attraction that will hopefully draw visitors into business areas from both I-95 interchanges.
“It would also serve as a resource and educational venue for our schools,” he added.
“Additionally, city council decided to incorporate an amphitheater into its plans. The amphitheater, using the full capabilities of the center and grounds will accommodate almost 1,000 people,” Young said. “It will be used for discovery center presentations, Rice Festival and other community events, concerts and other productions.
“We’re very excited to see construction begin. We know that this facility is one that will be used and enjoyed by the community for many years to come,” Young said.
At city council’s regular session on June 5, council members approved an ordinance that will have the city issue a maximum of $2.5 million in revenue bonds to cover the cost of constructing the Discovery Center complex and to recoup some city funds already used on the project.
The bonds, soon to go on the market, will have a 10-year life and will use proceeds from the city’s Hospitality and Accommodations taxes.
Local construction company I.P. Builders Inc., received the contract to handle the renovation of the building and the construction of the amphitheater. The company submitted the low bid of $1,846,990.