Aiken Co. gears up for ‘paradigm shift’ for parks, recreation, tourism

News 12 First at Five / Friday, Oct. 12, 2012

AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. -- In less than two weeks, tourism officials will hold a series of public input sessions. Director of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Brad Barnes says it'll be no less than a paradigm shift for his department.

Aiken County PRT already manages more than 20 parks across Aiken County, but soon that number could grow even larger.

"We've got quite a few people in a whole lot of area that we need to be able to provide services for," Barnes said.

At the end of this month, Clemson University will help his department take the first steps on finding a new direction.

"One of the things they do at their graduate level is they go to some of these smaller communities or counties and help them develop a comprehensive park, recreation and tourism master plan," Barnes said.

He says the citizens of Aiken County can have a role in the master plan, too. PRT set up eight focus groups and a public input session, and it needs people from all across the county to show up and be heard.

"If nobody from Ridge Spring shows up, I mean, how are we going to know what the people in Ridge Spring want and need?" he said.

Right now, Barnes says PRT gets less than a million dollars a year, and a lot of that goes into maintenance. There are no county parks in New Ellenton, Salley, Perry or Ridge Spring, and only a couple north of I-20.

Some parks need upgrades, too, but the new master plan could change that.

"The master plan is really going to be our road map for the next seven to ten years,” said Barnes, adding that Aiken County just needs citizens’ opinions first.

More information is available on the Aiken County PRT Facebook here or the Aiken County website here. Anyone interested in participating can contact the Aiken County PRT office at (803) 502-9000 ext. 2700 or email the PRT Department at

The times and dates for the meeting are as detailed below:

Monday, Oct. 22:
1 - 2:15 p.m. - Focus group/Interview 1 Health Care Providers
2:30 - 3:45 p.m. - Focus group/Interview 2 Non-Profits and Community Organizations
4 - 5:15 p.m. - Focus group/Interview 3 Municipalities
6:30 - 7:45 p.m. - Focus group/Interview 4 Government

Tuesday, Oct. 23:
9 - 10:15 a.m. - Focus Group/Interview 1 Media
10:30 - 11:45 a.m. - Focus Group/Interview 2 Businesses
1:15 - 2:30 p.m. - Focus Group/Interview 3 Churches and Civic Organizations
2:45 - 4 p.m. - Focus Group/Interview 4 Education

6 - 8 p.m. - Large public input session (at least 100 people) Program and Facility Users

All the focus group meetings will be at the Aiken County Recreation Center at 917 Jefferson Davis Highway in Graniteville. The large Public Input Meeting will be held at Town Creek Baptist Church. The address for the church is 250 Town Creek Road in Aiken.

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