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Open Space Institute Secures Critical Addition to Botany Bay Heritage Preserve on Edisto Island

Image Credit: L. Marion Bull/Leland Creative

CHARLESTON, SC (April 27, 2022)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced the purchase of a key property on Edisto Island, the 176-acre Bayview Farms. The property serves as the gateway to the Botany Bay Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area and includes more than one mile of frontage along Botany Bay Road and Highway 174. OSI’s acquisition of Bayview Farms secures the entrance to one of the most beloved and heavily visited nature preserves in the state.

A drive across Edisto Island on Highway 174, a National Scenic Byway, reveals the significance of the Bayview Farms acquisition. The 13-mile-long route from the Intracoastal Waterway to Edisto Beach is literally a trip through history. Over the past two centuries, the landscape along the road has changed very little, due largely in part to community-driven efforts to protect the island’s unique landscape. The highway is flanked by saltmarsh creeks and tidal mudflats, farm fields, and stands of maritime forest. The historic African American settlements along the road consist of modest cottages, some with windows outlined in traditional “plat-eye blue” paint, sheltered beneath the branches of ancient, Spanish moss-laden live oaks.

“With more than 50 percent of the land protected, Edisto boasts a remarkable community preservation history,” said Nate Berry, OSI Senior Vice President. “OSI is proud to contribute to this legacy by securing Bayview Farms — a property long deemed a critical conservation priority.”

Image Credit: L. Marion Bull/Leland Creative

Just an hour south of Charleston, Edisto Island’s ecology and culture are among the most intact and authentic of any place on the East Coast. The primary focal points along the road — gathering places for the island residents — are beautiful frame churches with congregations whose lineages on the island stretch back centuries. Turning left off Highway 174, Botany Bay Road is perhaps the most often painted and photographed of all rural Sea Island roads. The oak-canopied avenue leads to the 4,400-acre Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area, sited on two former cotton plantations called Bleak Hall and Sea Cloud, dating to the late 17th century. Two structures on the Preserve, including a Gothic icehouse, are on the National Register of Historic Places. Botany Bay also encompasses a series of Indian shell rings. Estimated to have been constructed between 3,000 and 5,000 years old, the shell rings are believed to be among the oldest human structures in North America.

“Bayview Farms is the first thing you see entering down Botany Bay Road. Its protection not only protects that viewshed leading into one of the most popular DNR properties, but it has approximately 50 acres of forested wetlands that support reptile and amphibian conservation. The property also protects the water quality for a stream that drains and connects to Botany Bay Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area (HP/WMA),” said Robert Boyles, Director of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. “We are delighted to see that OSI has taken ownership of such a vital conservation asset to the continued protection of these wetlands and the surrounding maritime forest that play a vital role for migratory songbirds as well.”

“We could not be more appreciative that OSI is making such a significant commitment to protect this critically important property on Edisto, adding to the tapestry of land conservation that makes this island so special,” said John Girault, Executive Director of Edisto Island Land Trust.

Just across the North Edisto River lies the gated community of Seabrook Island, the southernmost of Charleston’s “resort islands” – cautionary tales of what Edisto could have become without the vigilant efforts of land conservation organizations over the past 40 years. Even today, under Edisto’s relatively restrictive zoning, Bayview Farms could have been subdivided into dozens of residential lots.

"This historic deal on Bayview Farms prevents inappropriate development and ensures the public will be able to enjoy this phenomenal ecological and cultural resource for generations to come," observed Berry.

OSI’s acquisition was made possible by a loan from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation. Former Governor Mark Sanford made a generous donation to cover transaction costs.

With community support, OSI plans to pursue public conservation funding and ultimately transfer the property to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources for inclusion in the adjacent Preserve.

“The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation is thrilled to be partnering with OSI by providing bridge funding for this strategic Lowcountry acquisition,” stated David Farren, Executive Director of the Donnelly Foundation.

Thanks to the cooperative generosity of the landowners, community, and key funders, this magical area will be protected forever.

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