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The Reedy River Master Plan compiled for the city and county by Clemson University in 2002 called for construction of a new park on Greenville’s west side along with the creation of a 20-mile rails-to-trails project stretching from downtown Greenville to Travelers Rest. (The Swamp Rabbit Trail opened in 2010 and brings hundreds of thousands of walkers, runners and cyclists through the area annually.)
In 2010 the City was awarded a $1.8 million grant to support a three-year planning effort titled Connections for Sustainability: Linking Greenville’s Neighborhoods to Jobs and Open Space. It included the development of a city-wide housing strategy, a public transit study and a plan for a potential city park.
In 2013, a design team and the City of Greenville conducted a week-long collaborative exercise to sketch plans for a new park at the Unity site. A year later, the City published the Greenville West Side Comprehensive Plan. The plan recommended design elements for a park along the Reedy River that would substantially expand the existing Mayberry Park.
In 2016, City Council voted to relocate our Public Works facility. The move to a new facility on Fairforest Way freed up land for the park and eliminated considerable traffic and noise in the area.
Construction began in February 2020 with mobilization and relocation of utilities. Today the parking lot is completed. New Welborn Street, the Visitors Center, playgrounds and a splash pad are under construction. Foundations are being poured for the three pedestrian bridges that will span the Reedy.
Unity Park is nestled among three neighborhoods – Southernside, West Greenville and Hampton-Pinckney. Mary Duckett, president of Southernside Neighborhood in Action, has been instrumental in support of the ongoing development of Unity Park. Duckett and other neighborhood leaders were part of the 2013 master planning process.
Outreach has been ongoing since the project’s inception, and even included students from nearby A.J. Whittenberg Elementary and St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School, who wrote on note cards what they wanted to see in the park and illustrated their ideas. Neighborhood cookouts were hosted regularly as a way to casually inform neighbors and keep lines of communication open.
In January of 2020, City Council adopted the Community Character Code to ensure new development around Unity Park would complement the existing neighborhood and seamlessly transition to and from downtown Greenville. Council committed to creating a pedestrian-friendly area that would preserve the character of the existing community. https://bit.ly/2NjRTBb
Unity Park doesn’t rely on general fund money (property taxes and business licenses) so those dollars can be spent on city priorities like affordable housing, public safety, transportation and neighborhoods.
Every dollar spent on Unity Park is an investment in a part of Greenville that was historically overlooked. Unity Park is guiding equitable development by improving the quality of water and soil, the health of the environment, access to the river and connectivity to the Swamp Rabbit Trail.
The city has contributed $6.0 million to the Greenville Housing Fund and earmarked another $2.5 million over the next five years. In February 2021, the city donated 19 parcels of land, valued at an estimated $8 million, to the Greenville Housing Fund. The parcels will be used to provide more affordable housing options in the neighborhood surrounding Unity Park.
The Unity Park project includes the restoration of a half-mile section of the Reedy River and adjacent wetlands. Another critical component is the Tree Management Plan. With the assistance a local non-profit, Trees Upstate, the project team has identified the species of trees, assessed the health of the native trees and developed a reforestation strategy. Complementing this work will be a realignment of the riverbank and replacement of invasive tree species. Unity Park Tree Management Plan: https://bit.ly/3licUZn
Environmental engineers are committed to creating green infrastructure, which at Unity Park means a state-of-the-art drainage system to reduce floodwaters in the park and surrounding neighborhood. A series of “benches” will be added around the riverbank, creating more surface area for water flow during flood events. The City is constructing landscaped depressions filled with sandy soil and plants so that runoff will be filtered naturally and be absorbed into the water table, reducing the amount of stormwater that reaches the river.
The most significant progress and return on investment will occur through the Mayberry Street redevelopment. The mixed-use development could include a hotel, retail stores, a medical center, and a college campus, in addition to multi-family housing.