CHARLESTON, SC (Oct 18, 2021)—The Open Space Institute (OSI), Drayton Hall Preservation Trust, and Lowcountry Land Trust today announced a significant conservation victory within South Carolina’s Ashley River Historic District. With the protection of the land, which has now been conveyed to the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust with a conservation easement held by the Lowcountry Land Trust, the project has successfully secured one of the last and largest unprotected inholdings within one of America’s most threatened historic districts.
The 204-acre “Oaks” property is located along the Ashley River Scenic River. The property features saltwater wetlands, mature freshwater maritime forest, and uplands containing a mature live oak allee. Protection of the land will permanently safeguard a critical tract important for the health of the Ashley River. OSI purchased the property from Evening Post Industries using funds from the South Carolina Conservation Bank (SCCB), the National Coastal Wetlands Grant Program of the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), Drayton Hall Preservation Trust, and Dorchester Preservation Trust.
Located only 15 miles from downtown Charleston, the 25,000-acre Ashley River Historic District is experiencing intense development pressure. Today, an estimated 3,000 acres of priority unprotected land exist within the region.
“The tract is embedded in a larger landscape of publicly and privately protected land and exhibits the creativity, innovation, and collaboration that have become hallmarks of the conservation movement in South Carolina over the past forty years.” said Nate Berry, OSI Senior Vice President for Land Acquisitions and Dispositions. “We at the Open Space Institute are proud to help carry this conservation tradition forward into its fifth decade.”
“Partnering with the Open Space Institute, Drayton Hall Preservation Trust and Lowcountry Land Trust team has allowed Evening Post Publishing to protect The Oaks in a manner consistent with our corporate philosophy of conserving significant ecological coastal habitat and the extraordinary cultural resource values of the Ashley River Historic District,” said Pierre Manigault, Chairman, Evening Post Publishing, Inc.
“The protection of The Oaks is the result of a collaborative effort from numerous conservation partners with funding leveraged from several sources including the Service’s National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program. As the Charleston metro area continues to expand, preserving important ecological and cultural resources, such as those of The Oaks, will be key to ultimately safeguarding the integrity of the greater Ashley River system for generations to come,” said Jason Ayers, South Carolina Coastal Program Coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“Given its scenic, ecological, and historic importance, the Ashley River corridor is one of the highest conservation priorities in the Lowcountry. The Oaks project builds on a series of investments the Conservation Bank has made here and hopefully catalyzes more land protection throughout the focus area,” said Raleigh West, Executive Director of the South Carolina Conservation Bank.
“Drayton Hall Preservation Trust could not be more pleased with the collaboration from the Lowcountry’s conservation and preservation organizations to see the protection of the Oaks come to fruition,” said Carter Hudgins, President and CEO of the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust.
“Protecting a state scenic river, a national scenic byway, and an ecologically and culturally rich piece of a large intact landscape — the Oaks accomplishes so many of the priorities we and the project partners strive to achieve,” said David Ray, Chief Conservation Officer of Lowcountry Land Trust. “The project’s completion demonstrates the vigor conservationists and landowners continue to bring to saving this incredibly important place.”
“As this area develops, the Ashley River’s future is imperiled, so conserving land along its banks is necessary for both its future and our own,” said George W. McDaniel, PhD, Chairman of the Dorchester Trust Foundation.
The Ashley River Historic District consists of more than 25,000 acres on the National Register of Historic Places, representing more than 300 years of cultural and ecological significance, including inland and tidal rice cultivation, the American Revolution, the Civil War, Post-Reconstruction Era phosphate mining, and the history of African Americans from slavery to freedom.
The Oaks property is OSI’s 46th completed project in just over six years in South Carolina and Georgia, where OSI has protected more than 46,000 acres. The property is also OSI’s second in the Ashley River Historic District, building on the 2018 protection of the Kings Grant Restoration Project.