Cannon Street All-Stars aim for White House visit via YouTube appeal

25 07 2014

The 1955 Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars didn’t get to play in the Little League World Series, but they are hoping to get enough attention from a slickly produced YouTube video to snag an invitation to the White House.

Read the whole article here on the Charleston Post & Courier’s website.


For Immediate Release 11 DEC 2013 – UPDATED

12 12 2013

Today local Charleston group Friends of DeReef Park filed suit challenging the loss of historic DeReef Park in the densely populated neighborhood of Cannonborough-Elliottborough. The lawsuit names the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (SCPRT) and the National Park Service (NPS) as defendants, and alleges that the agencies violated federal law when they approved the City of Charleston’s plan to sell the Park to a private developer. The lawsuit asserts that restrictive covenants should have protected the Park and given the community a greater say in the transfer before it took place.

The City received federal funding through the Land & Water Conservation Fund Act to develop DeReef Park in the 1980s. In exchange, the City was required to accept federal covenants that protected the Park as a recreational space forever. But in 2003, the City entered into a deal to convey the Park to a private developer, Civitas, LLC. Five years later, the City sought state and federal approval to lift DeReef Park’s restrictive covenants and transfer them to a substitute property over a mile away. The City claimed that it had to transfer the covenants because it had already promised to convey a free and clear title for DeReef Park to Civitas.

Community members caught wind of the transfer last year and asked the City to find a local replacement park in the neighborhood. According to Friends of DeReef Park’s lawsuit, the current so-called replacement park – near a proposed cruise terminal – would not be an adequate substitute because it was already an existing park and is located in a tourist district 1.2 miles away by foot.

DeReef Park sits on the border of the historically African-American neighborhoods of Cannonborough and Elliotborough. Its namesake refers to the DeReef Brothers, successful black businessmen who lived and did business in the Radlcliffborough and Cannonborough area of Charleston in the 1800s. This community has served as a center of African American commercial and social activity since the late 1800’s. The Park’s southern boundary, Morris Street, features two Civil Rights sites of note: the Morris Brown Baptist Church, which served as the headquarters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s hospital strike in 1969, and the former site of the Brooks Motel, which hosted leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph Abernathy on their organizing visits to Charleston. The Park’s northern boundary abuts the Cannon Street YMCA, the proud home of the 1955 Cannon Street All-Stars, an all-black team of 12 year-olds that took the state Little League title after white teams refused to play them. DeReef Park features an African-American “praise house,” known as United Missionary Chapel, built in the early 1900’s.

The developer has moved the praise house to a corner of the property, where it sits boarded up. Friend of DeReef Park member and chairwoman, Heather Templeton said that the group’s members would love for the site to be restored to its former .84 acres of parkland, but if that is not is possible, the group is eager to participate in the search for a proper replacement park. Templeton said the lawsuit was a last resort for an area that has been repeatedly recognized as lacking adequate park space. “They chopped a historic park into pieces and want to replace it with a site over one mile away where there are already lots of parks. Families in the area want their history and their right to a recreational park respected and restored.”

Friends of DeReef Park is represented by local counsel Davis Whitfield-Cargile of McDougall LawFirm, LLC, and the Institute for Public Representation (IPR), a public interest law firm and clinical education program established at Georgetown University Law Center in 1971. Attorneys at IPR function as counsel for groups and individuals who are unable to obtain effective legal representation on matters including those involving the environment.

Downloadable PDF
FDP Complaint 12-11-13 filed in The United States District Court, District of South Carolina, Charleston Division

Inquiries can be directed to:

Heather Templeton


Updated 12 Dec 2013: Complaint PDF added

Letter to the Editor

21 01 2013

Heather’s letter to the Editor (Post & Courier)

Losing DeReef Park would be a blow to neighbors, children
Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 12:01 a.m.

Over the last 10 years much has been written about DeReef Park and the Smith-Morris development plans, but key information about how this park came into existence and was later sold has been neglected.

DeReef Park is the last public green space in the neighborhoods of Cannonborough-Elliotborough and Radcliffeborough. For the last 20 years, it has provided playground space for neighborhood children, dog walkers, the youth of Shiloh AME Church and over 200 participants of the Cannon Street YMCA.

The park property, known as Radcliffeborough Acquisition, was originally purchased by the city of Charleston in 1981 with a grant from the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). A subsequent LWCF grant in 1991 provided for the development of a gazebo, playground, walkways, landscaping and roadways. Two years later, Charleston City Council issued a resolution naming it DeReef Park.

LWCF is a federal grant program managed through the National Park Service (NPS) and the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (SCDRT).

By accepting the grant money from LWCF, the city is required to maintain this property, replace facilities as needed, have an official LWCF sign posted in the park and, most importantly, restrict the use of the property to public outdoor recreation in perpetuity.

There is an exception to this rule. The covenants can be converted to another parcel of property if it is of equal fair market value, usefulness and location. The replacement parcel must be part of a viable recreation area. All practical alternatives to the conversion must be evaluated.

The city entered into a memorandum of understanding with Civitas, LLC in 2003 for the redevelopment of the area, including improvement to park properties.

According to planned unit development guidelines, the existing park was to be separated from one large tract to two small spaces on either side of Morris Street.

Also, the new park plans weren’t the same acreage of the existing park, which put the city at risk for being out of compliance with LWCF.

In late 2008 the city finalized a year-long process to identify a “replacement park” and to document why this property met the legal requirements for a conversion.

The replacement property identified by the city and approved by SCPRT and the NPS is a small portion of property known as Concord Park. This property now under conservation easement is a nondescript, small strip of land running parallel to Calhoun Street between Concord and Washington streets across from Liberty Square. This piece of land is still smaller than DeReef Park but appraised at a higher value.

As of June 2012 there were no signs to identify a park despite the requirement that a replacement park be built within two years. Based on an inquiry from the Department of Interior the space is now marked with white paint and a posted LWCF sign.

Meanwhile in DeReef Park, there is no playground equipment and no indication of when a new and improved park will be built. The property is marked with No Trespassing signs.

The city will build a beautiful waterfront park on Concord Street, but the families, students and retired residents of Cannonborough-Elliotborough and Radcliffeborough neighborhoods also deserve a park near their homes.

Research shows parks can improve the health and wellness of residents, as well as provide economic benefits by increasing the value of residential properties.

Is the replacement park down on Concord Street equivalent in usefulness and location?

Have all practical alternatives been reviewed by city leaders?

Heather Templeton

Cannon Street


Another Park at Risk?

14 11 2012

A recent Letter to the Editor of the Post and Courier

Stop Neglecting Brittlebank Park

Maybe if a cruise ship were parked in front of Brittlebank Park, the park would not be in such deplorable condition. Don’t believe me? Take a stroll through the park.

This is a prime example of how the mayor and City Council rate tourism over livability for peninsula residents.

Buckling pathways everywhere, litter, paths covered with soil and weeds, encroachment by parking of the police department, S.C. employment office, Marriott and kayak trailers.

Is this any way to reward the people of Charleston who preserved its dwellings and whose way of life has made the city the “best travel destiation of the world”?

Read the entire letter on the Post & Courier’s site

Meet the neighbors, turn in a gun at Y Stand Up for Charleston

9 11 2012

Meet the neighbors, turn in a gun.

Y Stand Up for Charleston promises a little something for everybody.

It’s set for 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Nov. 17 at the YMCA of Greater Charleston at 61 Cannon St.

Residents can turn in a gun for $25; cheer for firefighters and police officers competing on the basketball court; and watch the kids enjoy jump castles, popcorn, snow cones and a cookout.

It’s also billed as an opportunity to meet neighbors, get to know firefighters and police officers and learn about programs at the YMCA.

More info @ The Post & Courier


5 06 2012

Sometimes it feels as if our neighborhood is under attack.

© 2012 David Templeton

United Order of Tents could lose home
By Glenn Smith

The cream and green building with the rusted iron gate looms large over Cannon Street, a hodgepodge of architectural styles that has been home to a secretive sisterhood for more than a half-century.

The United Order of Tents has weathered civil war, segregation and strife since its birth in the late 1800s. But now, the ravages of time and city building codes threaten to leave the group homeless.

The Tents are facing a monster repair bill to shore up their crumbling building, which has developed severe structural issues. The repair costs could run in the neighborhood of $700,000, and the Tents just don’t have that kind that kind of cash on hand.

Preservation groups are rallying to help the group, run entirely by black women, many of whom are elderly. But in the meantime, Charleston officials have hauled the group into the city’s Livability Court, and a judge has given the Tents until early next month to board up the place.

Read the full article @ The Post and Courier

Historic black meeting house in downtown Chareston to be moved

18 05 2012

Wade Spees / P&C Staff

Historic black meeting house in downtown Chareston to be moved, restored

By Schuyler Kropf

A historic black meeting house in downtown Charleston is poised to be moved to make room for luxury homes, with advocates saying relocating the United Missionary Chapel is the best way to protect and preserve it.

Another option included turning the building into a single-family house.

Charleston’s Board of Architectural Review voted unanimously Wednesday to allow the structure to be moved so that 33 single-family units can go forward as part of the “Gathering at Morris Square” development.

The chapel is in the middle of a historically black neighborhood surrounding the Dereef Court area.

Read the full article @ The Post and Courier