Ribbon-cutting ceremony brings full circle four-decade long effort to bring community roadway up to standard
By Charlie Morrison
This past Saturday, May 18 the residents of the Honey Hill Community took part in an intergovernmental ribbon-cutting ceremony the likes of which their neighborhood, nor any other part of James Island for that matter, had ever before seen. In commemoration of Charleston County Public Works’ completion of the Honey Hill Road/Sidewalks project, representatives from Charleston County, the City of Charleston, and the Town of James Island, respectively, joined community leaders from the neighborhood for the gathering, ribbon-cutting, and unveiling ceremony, not only of the new roadway, but also of a new sign the HHC raised the necessary funds themselves for, a sign demarking the neighborhood as the Honey Hill Community. Written on the faces of community residents last weekend at the sight of the road, the sidewalk and the sign, was something deeper, as well, pride … the look of a people taking collective pride in something of their doing, and it was timeless.
The source of the revitalized interest in the neighborhood and community roads across James Island and Johns Island, was undoubtedly Charleston County Council District 8 representative Anna Johnson, who served as the keynote speaker at the short ceremony.
Joining their colleague from County Council were County Councilman Teddie Pryor and Henry Darby. Councilmen William Dudley Gregorie and Perry Waring from the City of Charleston were there, and a strong contingent from the Town joined the Mayor in attendance as well.
“When I finally saw (the paved road) for the first time, tears were streaming down my face,” smiles lifelong Honey Hill Road resident and current neighborhood association president Sandra Barbour when reflecting on the transformation of the community road she’d grown up on, to a paved, public, properly incorporated roadway, in a recent interview with JIM. “When I first saw the paving completed, I just remember saying, ‘Thank you Lord,’ … and that was such a good feeling,”
“Others ahead of me have been pushing for this road for what, forty years now …” continues, Barbour in deference to, amongst others, Anna Mikell Fludd, her predecessor at the head of the neighborhood home owner’s organization as well as the group’s sustained effort to revitalize the neighborhood as a whole. “And then the thought of all of our forbearers who were there to precede us and how I wish they could see it now, wow…
The cost of the Honey Hill Road/Sidewalk Project was budgeted as approximately $90,000 back in February, 2012, however that estimate contained within it a number of aesthetic and functional considerations in addition to the 360 tons of asphalt.
The project plan mandated that County staffers construct a two-lane, asphalt paved roadway for 2,300 feet along the formerly “community” road, along with an additional 1,300 feet of sidewalk.
County Public Works staffers themselves did the work, also installing a more comprehensive drainage infrastructure piece at the end of the roadway, a one-way loop road to provide access to residents, as well as a wooden walkway for pedestrian access from Washington Park on Fort Johnson Road to the central area of the Honey Hill Community.
Additionally, a botanical garden with an educational element was included, to be installed in the island formed by the diverging paths of asphalt as part of the concluding, third phase of a project that was County-driven, but was located within the Town of James Island and in need of some right-of-way acreage from the adjacent City of Charleston’s Washington Park.
James Island Mayor Bill Woolsey perhaps best cast perspective on the unique situation. “I’m now standing on City-zoned property, but only until the pavement at which point we’re back we’re back in the Town … that’s the life we lead,” said Woolsey.
Honey Hill is the first such “non-standard” road to be accepted into the County system, but not the last, according to Johnson. Many community or farm roads are non-standard in that they do not meet the 50-foot width requirement for a standard road classification.
On the ground in the neighborhood the efforts of Barbour, along with those fellow community leaders like Anna Mikell Flood spent harmonizing the neighborhood on tough issues like right-of-way land usage paid off, when Johnson hit the ground running after winning the seat representing District 8 on County Council, bringing the issue of community roads immediately to the forefront.
Just two years ago, the now historic roadway was in perhaps the worst shape it had ever been in, to the point it had become a public health hazard. A rainy spring evening all but washed out the roadway, making it practically impassible, with deep crevasses and sharp rises jostling smaller cars and larger, service vehicles alike.
Driving on the road after a heavy rain was inadvisable, and public service entities like EMS, Fire and elderly care services group warned they were cutting off service for the difficulty they experienced trying to service the road. Apparently in the case of Honey Hill, it had get bad before it got better.
And while the efforts of contemporary leaders have been instrumental in the County accepting the community road into their system, the original creation of the greater Honey Hill community, which also consists of Ben Road, Williams Road and Greenhill Road, can be traced back over 140 years.
The conclusion of the Honey Hill/Sidewalks Project will end when the asphalt meets that of existing County road Williams Road. For Barbour, this fact should not be lost, in that the roadway will once again officially connect the two sides of the community.
“In the 100 acres, Greenhill, Honey Hill, Williams Road … they’re all connected,” continues Barbour. “With Williams Road, Honey Hill Road, and Ben Road all being part of the original 100 acres, we felt they should once again all connect through to Williams Road … because we’re all one community, one Honey Hill community.”
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