The trail walking, hiking, fishing, canoeing and other activities at Florence County’s many parks and recreation sites offer no excuses for staying inside. Lynches River County Park, a 676-acre site, includes everything from a splash pad to a 1,200-foot riverwalk, as well as canoeing and other water-based options. And with a nature center and seasonal festivals, the park also doubles as a learning and cultural facility for area residents.
“One popular activity is a nature walk led by local naturalists, which proves that one does not need to go very far to see nature in the heart of Florence County,” says Terasa Young, supervisor of the park’s Environmental Discovery Center, which provides programs that highlight the importance of “being a good steward of our Earth.” The center’s meeting space accommodates groups of 20 to 400 people and offers a rotating roster of educational, informative and entertaining exhibits. As a measure of its popularity, consider that the center has seen more than 30,000 visitors from 32 states and six countries since opening in February 2008. It now is anchoring the park’s conceptual master plan for landscaping, which will provide more opportunities to learn about natural history and sustainable living, Young says.
The 1,590-acre Woods Bay State Natural Area in Olanta includes Carolina bays, elliptical depressions that fill with water and become shallow wetlands. Woods Bay has a 500-foot boardwalk and a one-mile canoe trail. Parks are also a big part of the picture within the Florence city limits, where some 18 facilities with various amenities as well as a 21-mile greenway system are heavily used. A $5.5 million tennis complex provides 24 to 30 courts, a clubhouse and an activities center. “It is designed for regional tournament play, so we are anticipating bringing in tournaments from around the Southeast and elsewhere,” says Drew Griffin, director of public works and utilities. The tennis complex is modeled on the Freedom Florence Recreation Complex, a 100-acre multipurpose site and frequent home of major softball tournaments.
The complex includes nine softball/baseball fields, three lighted football fields, batting cages and a gymnastics center. Connecting these and other sites is the city’s greenway system, a combination of bike paths and boardwalks, where recently completed work has brought the east and west sides of town together via its pathways. (www.cityofflorence.com/parks) Not all the city’s parks deal with huffing and puffing. Take the new Florence Veterans Park, for example. Built to honor veterans of wars from World War I to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the $4 million park was dedicated in 2008. Its popularity highlights how parks serve as a draw to both tourists and relocating businesses, says Holly Young Beaumier, director of the Florence Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Manufacturing industries, in particular, are aware of the benefits of parks and land preservation,” Beaumier says. “As businesses choose a site, they are aware of the level of integration of the community, and well-run parks systems facilitate this integration.”