AP NEWS

Small park in downtown Aiken is undergoing a major renovation

April 13, 2019

A small park in downtown Aiken is undergoing a major renovation.

“It’s kind of a cool project,” said Tim Coakley, acting public services director for the city of Aiken.

The park is in a median on Laurens Street between Richland Avenue and Park Avenue. It is at the intersection of Laurens and Hayne Avenue.

The city of Aiken and the Aiken Historic Foundation teamed up to establish the park in 1973.

It was refurbished in 1996, and “it was time to redo it again this year,” Coakley said. “We contacted the Historic Aiken Foundation and made sure we were following protocols to save anything that was historic there, and then we went to Aiken’s Design Review Board to make sure that they thought what we were going to do was appropriate. Now, we are in the construction phase.”

The park contains poles for two of Aiken’s first street lights, which originally were powered by gas, and paving bricks that were laid in the early 1800s.

The devastating ice storm in 2014 battered the park, so repairs and replacements are big parts of this year’s renovation.

“There were four major trees on the park’s four corners,” Coakley said. “One of them had to be completely removed because of the ice storm, and a couple of them were pretty busted up. We’ve now removed all of the trees and all of the other plants. We’ve kind of cleaned the place out. We’re going to be planting six new trees that will be Japanese maples.”

There also will be four new flower beds.

“They will be planted when we do all of the summer flowers in four to six weeks,” Coakley said.

There are currently containers that have flowering plants in them in the park.

The plastic globes on the light poles were badly discolored, so they have been replaced. They now have LED light bulbs instead of electric light bulbs.

“Bricks from the 1800s were in knee-high walls on the edges of park,” Coakley said. “They sustained heavy damage during the ice storm, and they were kind of broken and fallen down. We’ve got a brick mason coming in who is going to reuse the old bricks and rebuild the walls.”

Coakley hopes the project will be completed, except for the planting of the new flower beds, within the next 30 days.

“It depends on the weather,” he said.

The cost will be approximately $5,000.

Money from the Accommodations Tax, Hospitality Tax and the city of Aiken’s General Fund is being used to pay for the renovation.

According to the city of Aiken’s website, the park originally was built at no cost to the city except for the removal of asphalt that covered the area at the time. The restoration in 1996 was done in memory of Thomas F. Maurice, a prominent Aiken resident.

Maurice, who died in 1993, was the president of Southeastern Clay Company and an Aiken Preparatory School trustee. Maurice also was involved in leadership of numerous community organizations and historic preservation.