Waterfront Park is a twelve-acre park along approximately one-half mile of the Cooper River in Charleston, South Carolina. The park received the 2007 Landmark Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award “recognizes a distinguished landscape architecture project completed between 15 and 50 years ago that retains its original design integrity and contributes significantly to the public realm of the community in which it is located.
Riley Waterfront Park is one of the peninsula’s most visited parks, centrally located near The Market. Finished in 1990, Waterfront Park is a favorite of visitors and locals alike, offering fantastic views of the Charleston harbor. Old-fashioned park benches dot the park, and family-sized swings offer a fun way to spend a relaxing afternoon together. A large rectangular lawn provides a great spot for picnics and sunning. Walkways are ideal for strolling, and two large fountains make for fantastic places for children to play, splash and cool off. The fountains light at night, offering a truly spectacular scene along the harbor’s waterfront. This park has free Wi-Fi Internet access thanks to Google and the Charleston Digital Corridor.
The location of the park, between Vendue Range to the north and Adger’s Wharf to the south, had historically been a center of maritime traffic with several wharfs and shipping terminals. The area entered a long period of decline, capped in June 1955 by a fire at a steamship terminal at the site. By 1980, the site was an “overgrown area marred by charred pilings and gravel parking lots.”
Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. began making plans for a park on the site soon after taking office in 1975. Acquisition of land began in 1979, and after more than a decade of planning, fund-raising and clearing environmental hurdles, the parks department and Ruscon Construction Co. broke ground in 1988. Work on the $13 million park progressed into 1989, and a target opening date was set for May 4, 1990. In September 1989, Hurricane Hugo struck, causing about $1 million of damage to the park. Nevertheless, the park opened on May 11, just one week past the pre-hurricane projection.