GEORGETOWN COUNTY, SC — Building on the creation of South Carolina’s first coastal public-use community forest, the Open Space Institute (OSI) and Georgetown County have expanded the Rocky Point Community Forest, with the help of the South Carolina Conservation Bank (SSCB). The successful land conservation project furthers the efforts of OSI and a broad coalition of partners in improving access to, and protecting water resources and sensitive habitat along, the celebrated Black River.
With the acquisition of the 19-acre property, both sides of the Choppee Road entrance to the Community Forest will be permanently protected. Including this new addition, the Community Forest, which is owned and managed by Winyah Rivers Foundation and Georgetown County, now totals 683 acres.
OSI, a critical partner in the acquisition of the initial property that re-established public access and created the Community Forest in 2015, secured funding needed to purchase this addition from the SCCB and a private foundation.
“This expansion of the Rocky Point Community Forest will further protect the Black River and the world-renowned paddling and other recreational opportunities it provides,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “This project truly validates the importance of community support in conservation. We commend our partners in the effort to protect this community forest and the scenic Black River for future generations.”
“We could not be happier about this new addition to an already outstanding resource,” said Beth Goodale, Director of Georgetown County Parks and Recreation. “The importance of Rocky Point cannot be overstated. We are so excited that the residents of Georgetown County will now have even more space to learn, explore, and enjoy one of our area’s most vital natural resources.”
Once closed despite its popularity with the community, Rocky Point Community Forest was re-established in 2015 after a two-year effort when OSI purchased the land and worked with partners including The Nature Conservancy and Winyah Rivers Foundation to fundraise for its reopening. The public-use park and natural area protects scenic, recreational, and conservation values of this incredible natural resource to benefit the North Coast community.
The scenic Black River in Williamsburg and Georgetown Counties is one of the most popular canoe and kayak destinations in the state. The exceptional coastal-plain river is also at the heart of a thriving private-conservation initiative that strives to protect the expansive forested wetlands, tidal creeks, and unique species that define this region.
In the coming years, the newly-conserved property and much of the uplands of the existing Community Forest will be restored for longleaf pine habitat, providing potential habitat for a suite of threatened and endangered species including Red-cockaded woodpeckers.
In addition to OSI, the protection of Rocky Point Community Forest and the greater effort to protect the Black River are the result of a broad coalition of conservation partners, including Rocky Point Community Forest Steering Committee and Black Scenic River Council.
For this latest addition to the Rocky Point Community Forest, OSI received a $90,000 grant from the South Carolina Conservation Bank for its work on the project. The Judith Haskell Brewer Fund of the Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia also supported OSI’s time on the project and due diligence.
Georgetown County will own the property and work in collaboration with the Rocky Point Steering Committee including OSI, Winyah Rivers Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, South Carolina Forestry Commission, to manage the property for habitat and recreation.
Across South Carolina and Georgia, OSI has directly protected more than 23,000 acres, while giving grants and loans that have resulted in the protection of almost 14,800 more acres.