BEAUFORT COUNTY, SC (July 18, 2023)— The Open Space Institute (OSI) and Beaufort County announced the purchase of a 527-acre property, providing new recreational access to nature and expanding a network of conserved land linking the vast Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto (ACE) Basin and Port Royal Sound watersheds.
OSI purchased a portion of Cotton Hall this spring and is under contract for the remaining acreage. Beaufort County Council passed a resolution on July 10, 2023, to purchase the tract from OSI.
Located in the Town of Yemassee, the land boasts biologically diverse bottomland hardwoods, expansive flooded impoundments, mature upland forests, and a historic homesite, all fronted by a 2.5-mile, tree-canopied section of US Highway 17. Conservation of the property establishes the first passive park in Beaufort County's portion of the ACE Basin, a celebrated watershed that is home to one of the largest wetland ecosystems on the Atlantic Coast.
Cotton Hall joins OSI’s recent victories in the region, including 12,000 acres protected by OSI and The Nature Conservancy, known as the “Slater/Buckfield Assemblage.” Cotton Hall serves as a critical link between the Slater/Buckfield Assemblage and other privately protected properties within the ACE Basin and the Port Royal Sound watersheds.
“Conservation is at its best when it works with and serves local communities,” stated Nate Berry, OSI’s Chief Land Protection Officer. “OSI is delighted to partner with the County to provide much-needed access to nature and add to a growing network of protected lands between the Savannah and Edisto rivers.”
Eric Greenway, Beaufort County Administrator, said, “The acquisition of Cotton Hall is a strategic move by the County to expand future public access to the stunning natural beauty of the ACE Basin. With this purchase, we will be able to open up these parcels of land to everyone, allowing for easy and convenient exploration of this unique and cherished area without the need for a boat.”
Beaufort County leaders have long sought outdoor recreation opportunities in Beaufort County, especially for fishing and water access. Cotton Hall, with its large saltwater pond and open fields, will provide a plethora of passive recreation opportunities including fishing and hiking.
The South Carolina Conservation Bank (SCCB) awarded OSI a grant to purchase Cotton Hall in March 2023. Beaufort County funds for purchase will come from the Beaufort County Rural and Critical Land Preservation Program. OSI intends to transfer the property to Beaufort County in late 2023.
SCCB Executive Director Raleigh West said, “Cotton Hall adds to a corridor of protected land from the famed ACE Basin to the Savannah River. This combination of public funding, public access, and private conservation easements is a hallmark of South Carolina conservation.”
Successful completion of the OSI-led project has also enabled permanent protection of the nearby Cotton Hall plantation home building. In a separately negotiated deal, the Open Land Trust, an essential partner in the project, placed a conservation easement on the adjacent 190-acre historic homesite, permanently limiting future development but keeping this portion of Cotton Hall in private hands.