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The City of Hartsville received a Municipal Achievement Award for its Neptune Island Water Park. Officials accepted the award during the Municipal Association of South Carolina's Annual Meeting on July 20. The town won in the 5,001 – 10,000 population category. Twenty-nine cities and towns submitted their projects and initiatives.
After experiencing an enthusiastic response to its existing splash pad, the City of Hartsville looked to provide more opportunity for local summertime entertainment. City leaders knew they wanted to push for a greatly expanded facility at the recreation complex that would broaden Hartsville's reputation as an attractive place to live and to provide a regional tourism destination. The city fulfilled that ambition in 2018 with the opening of Neptune Island Waterpark. The scope of this attraction is unusual for a rural community without direct interstate highway access. It offers slides, a wave pool and lazy river, and can accommodate 1,300 visitors.
Neptune Island Waterpark opened in June 2018 and brought in 64,000 visitors from 25 states and eight countries during the shortened season. Planners have set a goal of 80,000 visitors for the first full season in 2019.
The city funded the project with Combined System Improvement Revenue Bonds, in which the city's utility system and waterpark were combined into a single enterprise fund — the first of its kind in South Carolina. The city also used a capital lease for one-time opening capital expenditures and withheld a project fund to be used over the first three years of operations to continue to expand and improve the waterpark.
Neptune Island marks a major milestone in the development of the 93-acre Byerly Park Recreation Complex, which also welcomes families from around the nation every year for various baseball and softball tournaments. Further expansions to the water park are already planned, with growth based on the feedback from Hartsville's tourists.
"Neptune Island Water Park is an innovative project that put Hartsville on the map as a tourist destination and offers local residents an extraordinary recreational amenity," said Eric Budds, interim executive director for the Municipal Association.
These winning entries represent innovative projects undertaken by Municipal Association member cities and towns. Information and a video about the project are available on the Association's website www.masc.sc (keyword: Achievement Awards).
The Municipal Association of South Carolina initiated the Achievement Awards in 1987 to recognize and encourage innovations and excellence in local government.