Adam Chandler file photo
DeReef Park was the home of a historic African-American praise house that had to be relocated as plans were made for a new residential development.
With legal issues surrounding Charleston’s DeReef Park still unresolved, the city will host its second outing to gather and preserve personal histories related to the park.
In partnership with the Gullah Society and the National Park Service, the second DeReef Park History Harvest will be held Thurs, March 23, at the Charleston County Public Library, 68 Calhoun St. Taking place from 5:30-7:45 p.m., community members are asked to bring memorabilia from the former Morris Street park and the surrounding area to share at the event. Oral histories will be recorded and digital copies of photos and other materials will be made on site. According to organizers, information collected will be used to understand the history of DeReef Park, as remembered by the neighboring community, in order to create interpretive signs and a public report for general educational use and study.
“We appreciate everyone who came to our first History Harvest and shared their memories with us,” Susan Herdina, a city attorney who is coordinating the effort, said in a statement released by the city. “It is a privilege to learn about people’s families and neighbors, their childhoods and the local businesses that have all shaped the community over time. The stories and artifacts shared with us at the history harvests will help to shape how we honor the park in the future.”
In late 2013, a neighborhood group based in Cannonborough-Elliottborough sought legal action to challenge the development of DeReef Park after the city struck a deal that would allow homes to be built in the area. In the lawsuit, it was argued that the City of Charleston had previously agreed to preserve the park as a recreational space after receiving federal money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Late last year, Friends of DeReef Park, along with the National Park Service, the S.C. Parks Department, the City of Charleston, and developers behind The Gathering at Morris Square entered into mediation regarding the lawsuit. In the meantime, efforts continue to establish a replacement park. According to the most recent status report filed by the city regarding the process of finding a replacement park, the city is continuing to participate in weekly telephone conferences with the National Park Service and the state to discuss the replacement property process and the proposed replacement sites.
In February, attorneys representing the city wrote, “The city has identified several sites and is continuing to work on the documents needed to support the proposed replacement sites. The National Park Service and the state are continuing to review documents and provide advice during the weekly telephone conferences. The city will continue to work closely with the National Park Service and the state so that the replacement park process continues to move forward as quickly as possible.”