COLUMBIA, SC (April 5, 2021) – The Open Space Institute (OSI), South Carolina State Parks, and other private and public partners today announced a future South Carolina state park and recreational paddling route along the celebrated Black River. With the announcement, OSI and its partners have embarked on a comprehensive, community-based planning initiative that will shape the vision for this transformative public resource.
The 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 proposed 70-mile riverfront network of public and private recreational properties. The network, called the “Black River Water Trail & Park Network,” will also include the newly acquired 18-acre Black River Landing property in Kingstree and the OSI-protected Rocky Point Community Forest in Georgetown, with various trail stops and access points in between as the river runs through Williamsburg and Georgetown counties.
To inform the state park and the Black River Water Trail & Park Network, a year-long master planning process is being launched online via a new Story Map, a multimedia project also spearheaded by OSI. A public survey within the Story Map is available to ensure the Black River Water Trail & Park Network meets the access and recreational needs of communities along the river, while creating nature-based tourism opportunities to boost the local economy. Future public meetings, volunteer opportunities, and additional announcements about the project can all be found on the Story Map.
'The Black River Experience'
Since the publication of this press release, the Black River master plan survey effort has ended; data from that survey and the larger master plan effort is available in a 2022 Story Map, "The Black River Experience." Visit the Story Map to learn more.
“This project is a glowing example of how strategic land protection and a shared local vision can jumpstart a movement that will have countless benefits for this community and its residents,” said OSI Senior Project Director Dr. Maria Whitehead. “For generations to come, the property donated to the state by the Open Space Institute will welcome South Carolinians as they experience the beauty and wonder of the Black River.
“The Open Space Institute is proud to have played a role in the creation of this historic state park, and prouder yet to be part of the larger team of government agencies, community stakeholders, and neighbors who are joining forces to reimagine the Black River and its potential to provide increased recreational opportunities for residents, safeguard against the costs and dangers of flooding, and serve as a local economic draw,” Dr. Whitehead continued.
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 located exclusively within the borders of our state, giving South Carolina communities and entities the unique opportunity to work together to protect it,” said South Carolina State Parks Director Paul McCormack. “Community partners and conservation nonprofits have really been the catalyst for this project, and State Parks is excited to play a supporting role in this historic endeavor. While we are still likely many years away from welcoming our first visitor, the vision for the future park will provide important access for education and recreation, allowing us all to work together to protect and preserve the natural and cultural significance of this special place.”
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.
'This project is a glowing example of how strategic land protection and a shared local vision can jumpstart a movement that will have countless benefits for this community and its residents.' - OSI's Dr. Maria Whitehead
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.
In addition to OSI and South Carolina State Parks, master planning partners 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.
Acquisition of the Hinds-Canada state park property from OSI was supported by North American Wetlands Conservation Act Funds via the South Carolina Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the South Carolina Conservation Bank.