Throughout the summer months, anyone who traveled over Shem Creek likely noticed the construction of the new pedestrian bridge running parallel to the street. Construction of the bridge was completed during September, creating connectivity and pathways for pedestrians and bicyclists the entire span of the creek over Coleman Boulevard.
On Wednesday, Oct. 2 town councilmembers, town staff and members of the public gathered in the center of Mount Pleasant for the grand opening ceremony of the new Shem Creek Park Pedestrian Bridge. The project is part of the Coleman Boulevard Revitalization Project and is consistent with the town's Comprehensive Plan in increasing public access to the water, enhancing a sense of place, increasing connectivity and prioritizing the pedestrian environment.
The ceremony began at 10 a.m. with a ribbon cutting and ceremonial bridge crossing. Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie led the ceremony from a podium outside of Tavern & Table with an introduction speech. Seated behind the podium were members of council, the speakers for the ceremony and former Mount Pleasant mayors Cheryll Woods-Flowers and Linda Page.
"Now to make this more family friendly and family accessible, we have a very safe way to cross. As you can see, a great place to sit and take pictures or paint pictures of the most iconic scene in the Town of Mount Pleasant and indeed in our history," Haynie said.
Following the introduction South Carolina Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth held up the novel titled "Shem Creek" by Dorothea "Dottie" Benton Frank. Wentworth said she was asked to write a poem called "Shem Creek" right before Frank's book came out.
"It's very meaningful because many of you know that we lost Dottie not that long ago, very suddenly. It really means a lot to me to read this poem "Shem Creek." I did a lot of research for it, so you may learn some things about Shem Creek that you didn't know before now," Wentworth said.
Click here to see Wentworth read the poem titled "Shem Creek" at the Shem Creek Phase III ceremony.
Next, Mount Pleasant Town Engineer and Project Manager Kevin Mitchell explained it has taken the town 13 years and three phases to reach this point. He noted that Phase III was unlike the first two because they were building a bridge and had to incorporate bridge elements into the design.
"Shem Creek Park wouldn’t be possible without the support of our mayor and members of town council, as well as many others that carried it forward at one time or another from its 2007 Master Planning. From the beginning, Thomas and Hutton Engineering served as our lead designers and engineers. We are grateful for their service and they have done an excellent job," Mitchell said.
Mitchell also explained they added an 'Area of Repose' in the center so people can stop and take-in the sights and sounds of the creek. There is also a covered bridge section as an architectural feature positioned on the side so it wouldn't block the view as people drive over the bridge, but it allows another place to take in the view. The project also features an ADA compliant ramp for pedestrians to make safely from one side of the creek to the other.
"Our Shem Creek families and the surrounding businesses held together through the construction process. Their partnership and patience are one of the main reasons why we are here today celebrating another completed project," Mitchell continued.
The bridge's management team consisted of Kate Dolan, Catherine Morrissey and Kathy Frame with the town's purchasing department. Jen Hayes and staff at Thomas and Hutton worked hard on the technical expertise of the bridge, according to Mitchell. He also said the town was fortunate to secure a good contractor with Cape Romain Contractors, lead by Clif Hough, who has over 50 years of marine construction experience.
"Clif's involvement in the project was essential, and it has been an honor to work with him over the years. His crew lead by Tony Ranchich worked under harsh conditions this summer. Heat index reached over 100 degrees many days, and they did a lot of extra things that were not called for on the plans," Mitchell added.
Mitchell also apploaded Steven Watford with Cresent Moon landscaping for the new Pocket Park between Red's Ice House and R.B.'s Seafood Restaurant on Shem Creek. The park, which was also a part of Phase III, has rocking chairs for visitors and is based on a design of Thomas and Hutton's Landscape Architect John Winters.
Mount Pleasant Historical Commission Chair Rick Gutowski spoke after Mitchell at the ceremony. Gutowski explained Shem Creek Bridge's history and declared the Pedestrian Bridge has been rededicated to the four Mount Pleasant men that gave their lives in World War II; Lt. Col. Hampden E. Montgomery, 1st Lt. William C. Daniels, 2nd Lt. Robert F. Lancaster and Boatswain James M. Deer.
Mount Pleasant Chamber of Commerce President Shane Griffin also spoke to the crowd. Griffin explained the chamber is very excited for the bridge's grand opening and that they're thrilled to see business is strong within the town.
Following the ceremony, attendees enjoyed refreshments at Tavern & Table on Shem Creek.
The project cost $2.5 million including the design, permitting and construction administration. For more photos of the grand opening ceremony, please visit moultrienews.com/photos.