GEORGETOWN COUNTY, S.C. (Feb. 8, 2023)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced the permanent protection of a key riverfront property adjacent to the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge (WNWR). Conservation of the land will expand recreational access, safeguard regional drinking water resources, and buffer both the celebrated refuge and nearby Sandy Island from incompatible uses.
Spanning 56 acres, the “Hendrix” property lies just west of the Waccamaw Neck and less than two miles from some of the most popular beaches in South Carolina. Less than a half mile to the north of the property is Sandy Island, a 9,000-acre conservation success story that includes one of the most intact Gullah communities in South Carolina. Had the Hendrix property not been purchased by OSI, the land could have been sold for uses incompatible with the goals of the Sandy Island community and the WNWR.
Despite their proximity to the beach, the Waccamaw River wetlands around the Hendrix property still rise and fall with the tide but remain completely freshwater. Such “intertidal freshwater wetlands” are some of the most biodiverse and ecologically important habitats in North America. With their protection, the property’s wetlands and forests will not only provide habitat for sensitive and rare species, but also help filter drinking water resources locally and for the larger watershed.
“The protection of the Hendrix property will further protect the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge, Sandy Island, and the downstream Winyah Bay estuary. This tract is a priceless gift for future generations, as well as the species that depend upon the Waccamaw River,” said Dr. Maria Whitehead, OSI’s Vice President of Land in the Southeast. “By protecting pristine lands like the Hendrix property, we can ensure that the river continues to produce all the benefits it provides to the public. We thank the landowner for their dedication to the Waccamaw River, as well as our partners at the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge and Ducks Unlimited for their unflagging dedication to South Carolina’s irreplaceable natural heritage.”
The Hendrix property adjoins WNWR lands on all sides including a recent tract that was donated by the Historic Ricefields Association (HRA) in December 2022.
Providing important habitat for a wide array of wetland-dependent wildlife species including bats, swallow-tailed kites, and migratory birds.
Together, the two properties have a unique combination of forested and emergent tidal wetlands interspersed with upland islands also known as “hammocks.” The combination of these habitats makes them important for a wide array of wetland-dependent species of wildlife including several species of bats, swallow-tailed kites, and many species of migratory birds. These islands also provide refuge for all species of marsh wildlife during flood events and winter shelters for hibernating reptiles.
“We could not achieve these conservation measures without the help of partners like OSI and HRA,” said Craig Sasser, Manager of the Waccamaw NWR.
“The acquisition and protection of the Hendrix Tract builds off a strong partnership and long history of conservation along the Waccamaw River between Ducks Unlimited, the Open Space Institute, and Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge,” said Emily Purcell, Director of Conservation Programs-Southeast, Ducks Unlimited, Inc. “The addition of these 56 acres to the existing mosaic of protected lands along the River will not only benefit waterfowl and other migratory bird species that inhabit these wetlands, but will serve the local communities through water quality protections and recreational opportunities. As the world’s leading wetlands conservation organization, we are proud to have partnered on this project to leverage federal funding through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act to ensure that the treasured wetlands of the Waccamaw River remain intact forever.
"This acquisition of the Hendrix tract is a cause for celebration that reaches past the boundaries of Plantersville and Georgetown County, benefiting the entire state of South Carolina," said Ray Funnye, Director of the Village Group, a 501c3 nonprofit that has provided youth enrichment programs in the Plantersville community for 17 years. "Excursions to Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge sites teach our students about environmental preservation and the importance of biodiversity. The conservation of Sandy Island and its historical importance to the Gullah Geechee culture align with our core values of harmony, habitat, health, and history. We are excited to have the Plantersville Cultural Center located next to such a beneficial resource and learning experience for our youth and community.”
Considered one of the Southeast’s wildest and most beautiful rivers, the Waccamaw River runs approximately 140 miles across southeastern North Carolina and eastern South Carolina. The conservation of Hendrix is part of OSI’s continued efforts to protect the remaining unprotected strategically important properties along the river, which is well-known for its rich wildlife habitat values.
Spanning three counties in eastern South Carolina, WNWR was established in 1997 to protect and manage diverse habitat within coastal river ecosystems and to provide wildlife-dependent recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, and environmental education.
Protection of the Hendrix property was made possible with funding provided by the USFWS North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant program through an award from Ducks Unlimited to OSI.
The Open Space Institute protects scenic, natural, and historic landscapes to provide public enjoyment, conserve habitat and working lands, and sustain communities. Founded in 1974 to protect significant landscapes in New York State, 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: openspaceinstitute.org/states/south-carolina.