Chelsea Schneider, Innovations Content Manager, Aim

Bluffton broke ground in August on a new pavilion for the city’s long-time Washington Park.

The family-friendly park is one of the most visited in the city, and community leaders say the new amenity will allow for year-round use. The pavilion also will act as a wellness center and the permanent home of the Rock Steady Boxing Gym. The Rock Steady program is a non-contact fitness class designed for people living with Parkinson’s Disease.

“The benefits for economic development for having quality of places in your city are pretty obvious. There are other benefits you don’t see right away and that’s having a healthier community,” Bluffton Mayor Ted Ellis said as the community gathered to celebrate the ground breaking.

The new pavilion will replace three older buildings on the site and consolidate their functions into one space. Through the project, city leaders aim to bring a more attractive and useable meeting area to the park, and increase greenspace as city officials envision the park’s future uses. Like Rock Steady, the park also will provide a dedicated venue for city programming. Currently, many are offered in the city council chambers, which isn’t a space conducive to painting and other activities, Pam Vanderkolk, Bluffton’s parks superintendent noted.

Beyond its practical uses, the project also will strengthen connections among Bluffton residents.

“The city of Bluffton is known as the ‘Parlor City’ and not many of us have parlors in our houses anymore,” said Steven Putt, with the project’s architect Design Collaborative. “The purpose of the parlor was to invite your neighbors and guests in and get to know them. As we see it, this new building will provide that to this community and this immediate neighborhood and give people new life and opportunity to know one another again.”

Washington Park shows remarkable foresight on Bluffton leaders who in the 1870s preserved the space for recreation as homes went up around it.

“A lot of families,” Ellis said, “a lot of generations, myself included, have grown up around here.”

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