PLANTERSVILLE, S.C. (Feb. 28, 2023)—The Village Group today joined with the Open Space Institute (OSI) in announcing the acquisition of a long-sought-after property that will serve as the future home of the Plantersville Cultural Complex (PCC). The PCC is planned as a vibrant new community hub that will honor the region’s culture and history while creating new opportunities for recreation.
The 10-acre site in western Georgetown County is nestled in the Pee Dee Planters Historic District, the heart of the largest rice-producing region in the nation in the 1700s and 1800s. The parcel, located at the corner of Exodus Drive and busy Highway 701 in the community of Plantersville, was under threat of development prior to acquisition by the Village Group nonprofit, with support from OSI.
“The Open Space Institute is proud to have helped secure land for the Plantersville Cultural Complex,” said Dr. Maria Whitehead, OSI’s Vice President of Land in the Southeast. “It is an honor to help Georgetown County and the Village Group advance the long-held dream of celebrating and shining a light on the stories and sacrifices of generations of Plantersville residents. In addition to our partners at Georgetown County and the Village Group, OSI also thanks the South Carolina Conservation Bank and the Donnelley Foundation for their support of the project.”
“The Village Group is overjoyed to mark this critical milestone in the creation of the Plantersville Cultural Complex,” said Ray Funnye, executive director of the Village Group, a nonprofit that focuses on providing a safe and nurturing environment for children to learn and succeed. “This complex will be a source of immense community pride and opportunity as well as a place to honor the struggles and triumphs of our ancestors. The Village Group thanks the Open Space Institute and Georgetown County for their support and partnership, as well as our funders South Carolina Conservation Bank and the Donnelley Foundation.”
As envisioned, the grounds of the PCC will be a community park space centered around a small example of the unique rice fields that enslaved Africans engineered, built, and grew into the largest rice-producing region in the world. The space will provide a link to the past for Gullah-Geechee communities that endured on these lands for centuries and continue to live on today. This gateway property will increase access for visitors to the Gullah-Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor into Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge at Hasty Point and then on to Sandy Island.
The complex will offer unique and welcoming interpretive experiences for students, residents, regional tourists, and outdoor enthusiasts. The project also includes a new center that will house meeting and office space such as a multi-use classroom and provide a resource to incubate local artists and entrepreneurs.
Georgetown County will be a co-applicant for an Economic Development Administration grant application to help fund the development of the project. The Village Group will maintain the building and manage the day-to-day operations of the complex.
Acquisition of the land was supported by a grant from South Carolina Conservation Bank, a grant from the Donnelley Foundation, and private donors. OSI provided project planning and grant writing support for the project in addition to technical support for the closing.
The Village Group will continue fundraising efforts to support programming at the Plantersville Cultural Complex through a campaign called “Dirt to Dinner.” Through the project, students will learn the jobs needed to sustain a community, from tilling the dirt to setting the table. Donations can be made via www.thevillagegroup.org.
“Our state’s history — both the good and the bad — is inextricably tied to our land,” commented Raleigh West, executive director of the South Carolina Conservation Bank. “By protecting special places throughout our state, we help communities like Plantersville continue to share their stories and honor the past contributions of our forebearers.”
Plantersville’s historic district has one of the few remaining intact cultural landscapes in the Lowcountry. The district encompasses thousands of acres of historic plantations and four primarily African American villages, formed after Emancipation and purchased by former slaves. Today, their descendants are proudly keeping the unique heritage and traditions of the Gullah-Geechee people alive.
Protection of the land and development of the cultural complex aligns with Georgetown County’s Comprehensive Plan and the Waccamaw Region Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy as well as the new Gullah Geechee Seafood Trail, an effort to gather oral histories along the coast of South Carolina that will highlight Gullah culture, traditions, harvesters, restaurants, and artists.
“The purchase of 10 acres to expand the Plantersville Cultural Complex’s educational and cultural impact is an exciting testimony to the fortitude of the Village Group as it operates in the footsteps of our ancestors,” stated Marilyn Hemingway, president and CEO of the Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce. “Their plans for the Cultural Complex will be an impactful addition to the Gullah Geechee Seafood Trail in preserving our cultural knowledge of managing the water and land to grow rice.”
With its protection, the land will also connect to scenic and recreational trails linking the Plantersville Scenic Byway corridor to the Samworth Wildlife Management Area, Sandy Island, the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge’s Hasty Point Plantation, and more than 8,000 acres of additional conserved lands.
The Village Group’s mission is to equip youth with the tools to build a sustainable community by focusing on college and career readiness, cultural education, and economic development. The Village Group envisions a brighter future for its next community leaders by providing enrichment programs that enforce its core values of harmony, habitat, health, and history. Visit the Village Group online at www.thevillagegroup.org.
The Open Space Institute protects scenic, natural, and historic landscapes to provide public enjoyment, conserve habitat and working lands, and sustain communities. OSI has been a partner in the protection of more than 2.3 million acres in North America, including more than 70,000 acres in the Southeast. Visit OSI online at openspaceinstitute.org.