HORRY COUNTY, SC (Jan. 25, 2022)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced two land protection projects that will significantly expand South Carolina’s Cartwheel Bay Heritage Preserve. The newly protected properties are crucial to long-term restoration efforts for numerous species of rare plants and create increased opportunities for outdoor recreation in Horry County.
Conservation of the two properties, which are contiguous and together total 417 acres, will lead to a 40 percent expansion of the Cartwheel Bay Heritage Preserve. The Preserve, which is managed by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), currently totals 568 acres.
The newly protected properties support several rare, threatened, and endangered species including the Common pixie moss, and represent a significant restoration opportunity for many species of rare plants including Carolina bog asphodel and Florida scrub sunrose. Additionally, the land is one of the only places simultaneously supporting both Longleaf pine savannah and Carolina Bays — important isolated wetlands in natural shallow depressions fed by rain and shallow groundwater.
Located less than an hour’s drive from downtown Myrtle Beach, the protected properties will expand recreational opportunities in one of South Carolina’s fastest-growing regions. Once transferred to SCDNR, the lands will offer two miles of trails for birding, hiking, and cycling.
“This expansion of Cartwheel Bay Heritage Preserve represents a significant conservation win for Horry County and the rare plants and animals that depend upon Carolina Bays,” said Nate Berry, OSI Senior Vice President for Land Acquisition and Dispositions. “The protection of these important wetlands is all the more critical knowing the resource is located in one of South Carolina’s fastest-growing areas.”
There are 2,651 Carolina Bays in South Carolina, a number representing only 80 percent of the historic total due to development and conversion. Protection and restoration of the bays is a priority of many agencies and stakeholders; Horry County — which is home to 410 bays, the most of any other county — is a special focus of this effort.
In total, OSI has protected more than 28,000 acres in the State of South Carolina.