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SPIRITED INSPIRATION: Chaplin Community Park

Mon, Aug 29, 22



Charles Fraser, the 27-year-old dreamer who thought up the idea of living within nature, not on it, set aside 600-plus acres of Sea Pines for a “park,” and insisted on bike paths throughout Sea Pines to connect neighborhoods. People thought Fraser was nuts.

In 1994 the mayor of Hilton Head Island said that there was no need for any parks on the island since children could just go to the beach or learn to sail.

When the Town of Hilton Head Island incorporated in 1983, parks were not on the agenda. The town would be a “limited services” government, and parks were a service. “When we incorporated we were really a collection of these gated communities, 10 sub-communities…we weren’t one community. We gave ourselves that name, ‘incorporated,’ but we really didn’t feel that way,” said Town Manager Steve Riley. 

Nevertheless, parks and open space have been a critical part of the culture of Hilton Head from the beginning of modern development and to the creation of a new community. “Open space is an innate, instinctual quality of life for people” said Todd Ballantine, a renowned environmental expert, author and one-time islander. “The first public park on Hilton Head was the Newhall-Audubon Preserve, a 50-acre site (regular readers of this newsletter may remember the the cocktail and article about the preserve from last August). In 1965, Beany Newhall talked Fraser into giving her that land. He was looking for inciting and exciting gestures that reflected his ideas in Sea Pines. It was the first open space where you could watch wildlife, and it was free of charge and no gates, which is a big deal with me,” Ballantine said.

Fast forward to 1992: because of a massive bankruptcy on the island, large parcels of land were selling for pennies on the dollar. That year, using real estate transfer fee money, the town was able to buy 85 acres off Palmetto Bay Road. People for Parks was formed by the Island Recreation Association to raise the funds for what was to become Chaplin Community Park.


Whole families (pets included) love the variety that the Park offers. There is an excellent off-leash dog park (with lots of trees for shade) where pets can play and socialize.  

Kids enjoy the large playground, complete with a ship, multiple slides and jungle gym ladders. Teens and adults can pickup a game of tennis or basketball, or go for a hike on the nearby trails. The pavilion area is perfect for family picnics.   

The park offers well-maintained public restrooms and outdoor showers, which are perfect for changing or rinsing off before returning home. The beach path is a brief, direct trek through the sand with no stairs or boardwalk. Bring your favorite beach gear, and once you pass the dune line, you’re in for a treat – Burkes Beach offers an expanse of white sand in both directions without the resort crowds to contend with.


The full list of amenities include:

  • Basketball Court
  • Beach Access
  • Dog Park
  • Multi-purpose Field
  • Outdoor Showers
  • Picnic Pavilion
  • Playground
  • Restrooms
  • Tennis Court
  • Trail

So pack up the family and prepare to spend a very full day! And if you listen, you can hear Charles Fraser having the last laugh…    

Sources include: celebratehiltonhead, hiltonheadislandsc, hiltonheadrentalresource

Cocktail by Terry Cermak

The Cocktail:

The Chaplin Community Park 

  • 1 ounce Bulrush Gin
  • 3/4 ounce Applejack
  • 3/4 ounce Cocchi Torino
  • 1/2 ounce Koval Chrysanthemum & Honey Liqueur
  • 1 bar spoon St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
  • 1 dash Orange Bitters
  • 3/4 ounce egg whites

Combine the ingredients into a mixing glass with fresh ice and shake very well for 30 seconds. Pour into a cocktail glass and garnish with Luxardo cherries.