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Black River Water Trail Project Prompts Strong Community Engagement

Photo Credit: Mac Stone

KINGSTREE, SC (Nov. 9, 2021)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) and South Carolina State Parks today announced that more than 1,450 completed surveys were submitted as part of a community outreach effort associated with the creation of the Black River Water Trail & Park Network. Although complete analysis of the survey responses are ongoing, topline themes appear to be deep concern for the long-term protection of the Black River and a desire by residents for greater recreational access to the waterway.

The survey was crafted as part of an ongoing, comprehensive, community-based planning initiative that is forming the vision for the Black River Water Trail & Park Network, a 70-mile paddling route and riverfront network of public and private recreational properties (photos of the Black River are available here).

“More than we ever imagined, the public demonstrated that they are engaged in the Black River Water Trail and Park Network, and they believe in the area’s unparalleled natural inheritance,” said OSI Southeast Land Senior Director Dr. Maria Whitehead. “These invaluable insights will inform the next iteration of the master planning process, as OSI and our partners work to create an amenity that serves the public, tomorrow and into the future.”

“State parks become an important part of every community they are in, and we are pleased to have excited and involved locals participating in the planning process,” said State Parks Director Paul McCormack. “We’re thrilled with the response we’ve seen so far, and we’re grateful to our local, boots on the ground partners, who are doing a tremendous amount of outreach to connect with the community and engage them in this process.”

An introduction to and overview of the project can be found via the “Connecting to South Carolina’s Black River” Story Map, an online multimedia project also spearheaded by OSI.

'Connecting to the South Carolina's Black River'

To inform the state park and the Black River Water Trail & Park Network, a year-long master planning process is being launched online via the "Connecting to South Carolina's Black River" Story Map.

View the Story Map
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The next segment of the Black River Water Trail & Park Network master planning process will involve a public videoconference, held on Tuesday, Dec. 7, to describe the survey results and other updates around the project. To receive updates and announcements regarding the videoconference and other upcoming events, submit your contact information here.

In addition to OSI and South Carolina State Parks, master planning partners for the Black River Water Trail & Park Network include Black River Cypress Preserve, Black Scenic River Advisory Council, Butler Conservation Fund, Ducks Unlimited, Georgetown County, South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, The Nature Conservancy, Town of Andrews, Town of Kingstree, Waccamaw Regional Council of Governments, Williamsburg County, and Winyah River Alliance.

Funding for the master planning initiative includes support from the Bunnelle Foundation, Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Judith Haskell Brewer Fund, and the Conservation Alliance. Earth Design is serving as the consultant on the master plan.

About the Black River Water Trail & Park Network and the Black River

A new state park, located at the 310-acre “Hinds Canada” property previously protected and donated by OSI to the state, will be the centerpiece of the Black River Water Trail & Park Network, which will also include the newly acquired 18-acre Black River Landing property in Kingstree and the OSI-protected Rocky Point Community Forest in Georgetown. Various trail stops and access points will also be available in between as the river runs through Williamsburg and Georgetown counties.

Properties and access points along the Black River Water Trail & Park Network will share a common brand, making it easier for visitors to use and navigate the spaces, access the river, and paddle from one point to the next. With input collected during the master planning process, each trail stop may offer various passive recreation activities and amenities depending on the location – from primitive campgrounds to picnic shelters, restrooms, hiking trails and parking.

The Black River is a free flowing Coastal Plain river bordered by largely untouched and undiminished natural landscapes of forests or farmlands. The river is named after its dark tea-like color, stained by the natural tannins that seep from the river’s leaves and swamps.

Along its route, the Black River steadily meanders from large, open "lake-like" areas to narrow channels, bordered by forests of cypress, swamp tupelo and loblolly pine. Deep in these forests, you can find ancient cypress and other old growth trees that give you an unblemished glimpse at South Carolina’s past. Many plant and animal species call the river and surrounding swamps home, and it is a popular stopping point for various migratory birds.

While its gentle river flow has already made the Black River popular among paddlers, offering a scenic and approachable adventure for families and outdoor enthusiast alike, it also serves other important roles in the local community. Not only does the river provide drinking water for thousands, its forests and vegetation create a critical floodplain to protect surrounding businesses and homes from flooding. It has also served as a local favorite fishing hole for generations of anglers.

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