HARTSVILLE, S.C. -- Nearly 50 Hartsville residents, mostly from the South Hartsville neighborhood, met in Pride Park Tuesday afternoon for a “Walk and Talk Tour,” which began at the park on Sixth Street and continued down Marion. The tour also visited Rice and Butler Streets, among others.

The tour was part of a three-day visit by a volunteer planning team from the American Planning Association’s professional institute, a visit aimed at assisting the community in the creation of a neighborhood revitalization plan. The city of Hartsville applied for a Community Planning Assistance Team to help maximize its planning work.

First, participants took a brief survey which contained questions about public services, neighborhood “walkability,” recreational opportunities, safety and security, economic vitality and job availability.

One of the survey questions dealt with whether people in South Hartsville felt like they were a part of the larger Hartsville community, or if they felt isolated.

“Yes I do feel isolated,” said Mary Phillips, a resident of Butler street.

As she walked on the tour, Phillips pointed out lots that were overgrown with weeds, abandoned houses and other eyesores. She and others expressed concern for children playing in these areas.

Another question inquired about safety and whether people felt safe to walk in their neighborhood.

Annie McPhail said people don’t feel safe outside their homes. She said this was her first time on Butler Street.

“I live around the corner,” she said. “You don’t feel safe in your own neighborhood.”

As the group walked through the neighborhood, many expressed concerns about drainage problems and lack of sufficient street lighting.

Along for the tour, Mal Hyman, assistant professor of sociology at Coker College, said he had not walked in that area of town since 2008. He was disturbed to see more standing water, street problems and dilapidated houses than were present six years ago. However, he said he was pleased to see some positive changes in Pride Park.

Melvin Wingate, a property owner in the South Hartsville area, traveled from Columbia to attend the tour. Wingate moved from Hartsville in 1979. What he said he saw on his return to the neighborhood was power lines covered in vines, abandoned houses nearly completely covered in trees and vines and a general lack of upkeep. He said many of the problems could and should be addressed by the city of Hartsville and other public entities.

Sharlene Wingate said they made the trip to Hartsville because they wanted to hear the team’s assessment of the situation.

“We wanted to know how we can help,” she said.

After the tour, participants were invited to “Voice Your View – A Conversation on South Hartsville” at the Butler Heritage Auditorium. Participants were asked to share their thoughts about the assets and challenges of the neighborhood. The team wanted to know the community’s opinion on what should be nurtured and what needed to change. The basis for the Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy will come from these conversations.

Hartsville residents voiced concerns on a variety of topics such as sustainability, economic development, transportation, and housing.

Nadine James, a resident of the South Hartsville area, said in a written statement,

“It is like two different cities in one town,” said Nadine James in a written statement. James is a resident of the South Hartsville area.

She said while other parts of town are being kept up, “this part of Hartsville has been greatly neglected over many years, and all of the other parts of Hartsville have been taken care of very well.”

The planning group scheduled a “Framework for Neighborhood Revitalization” meeting Thursday. The meeting had the intention of presenting a draft of the Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy based on input from residents, community organizers, institutional leaders and other representatives.

Christopher McKagen is the editor of The Hartsville Messenger, covering Hartsville, Darlington and Darlington County .