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​Downtown Stormwater Relief

The largest privately-owned urban forest in the nation, the 21,000-acre Hitchcock Woods, has for decades faced persistent challenges of erosion, water contamination and wildlife habitat loss as a result of the stormwater runoff received from Aiken’s downtown. A task force appointed by Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon developed a comprehensive stormwater plan to tackle this problem.  
Through these efforts, the city developed a continuous monitoring and adaptive control system. Using National Weather Service forecasts, the control system is an innovative method of holding stormwater in underground vaults where a cloud-based computer system determines when and how much to release from the a way that minimizes the environmental impacts of erosion and water contamination in the Sand River.  
The city partnered with the nonprofit Hitchcock Woods Foundation, which eased past frictions between it and the municipal government. Clemson University gave technical assistance. 
The $15.8 million project received funding in part from Aiken’s 1% capital projects sales tax, hospitality tax funds, federal American Rescue Plan funds, a loan from South Carolina’s State Revolving Fund and a SC Department of Health and Environmental Control grant. The Hitchcock Woods Foundation provided the needed land and easements for the construction.  
The project’s first phase will complete construction in 2022, with funds allocated to monitor the project’s effectiveness. The effort also includes landscaping upgrades around the infrastructure, which will improve the recreational and educational offerings of Hitchcock Woods.    
Contact Mary Catherine Lawton at or 803.221.8216.