At long last, work began in August on the City’s project to address its unmanaged stormwater runoff that has caused serious erosion and sedimentation issues in the Woods over the past sixty years, creating a 70-foot canyon along an area of Sand River that, at one time, visitors were able to walk across.
As we have previously reported, the project calls for the construction of a series of underground retention vaults that will hold storm water runoff on properties at the entrance to the Woods. The vaults will allow the collected water to naturally filter into the ground below. If the computerized Opti System forecasts an upcoming storm event, the system initiates the controlled release of water into Sand River prior to the storm. The City anticipates the work on the stormwater project will be completed by September 2022.
Although the work requires the clearing of the property where the vaults will be installed, the City, the Hitchcock Woods Foundation, the Aiken Land Conservancy, and Aiken Streetscapes have joined together to develop a plan to create a new community green space when the project is completed. Working plans for the Gateway Greenway provide for replanting the cleared areas with appropriate, long-lived trees (including some grand trees like live oaks), pollinator gardens, magnolias, camellia bushes, and flowers, to name a few, as well as the construction of walking paths and the installation of benches and educational kiosks. When completed, the Gateway Greenway will serve as a beautiful community asset that connectss the main entrance of the Hitchcock Woods to Aiken’s historic downtown area.
“The Land Conservancy is excited about this project as a ‘“win-win’” for the City and the community,” says Jim Cunningham, the President of Aiken Land Conservancy. “It addresses both a long-standing environmental issue affecting the Hitchcock Woods—the largest, privately owned urban forest in the country—while also creating an exciting new community asset that will allow Aiken residents and visitors to experience the natural beauty of our town.”
Stay tuned as this important project proceeds over the upcoming months.
Please note that the South Boundary entrance to the Hitchcock Woods will remain closed for the duration of the project. Walkers and equestrians may enter the Woods at the Coker Springs entrance or at any of the other entrances to the Woods located on Dibble
Road. Please visit the Hitchcock Woods website (www. hitchcockwoods.org) or the Aiken Hounds website (www. theaikenhounds. com) or the Aiken Hounds Facebook page for updates and directions to other entrances to the Woods.