If you go
What: A public announcement and reception to launch fundraising campaign to purchase 17 acres of land near the Angel Oak.
When: 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Where: Angel Oak tree, Johns Island. Reception will follow at St. John’s Parish Church. Park at St. Johns Parish Life Center on Angel Oak Road.
The Lowcountry Open Land Trust won’t miss a beat when it comes to raising the final $1.2 million for land to expand Angel Oak Park.
Charleston County Council approved contributing $2.4 million in rural Greenbelt money toward the purchase of 17 acres of land near the historic tree with a 7-0 vote, with one abstention, on Tuesday night.
At 10 a.m. today, leaders from the trust, along with Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and County Council Vice Chairman Elliott Summey, will make a public announcement about a fundraising plan to bring in the other $1.2 million needed to purchase the $3.6 million property. The event will be followed by a reception at St. Johns Parish.
The nonprofit Lowcountry Open Land Trust has until Sept. 30 to raise the money. If it can’t do that, it will lose the option to purchase the property, which is adjacent to Angel Oak Park on Johns Island.
Conservationists have said expanding the park and preventing intense development is essential to protect the health of the historic tree, which attracts tourists and locals year-round.
Council Chairman Teddie Pryor said council members often disagree about issues on Johns Island, but that’s not the case with protecting the Angel Oak. “We’re all on the same side on this one.”
Johns Island resident Thomas Legare was among a handful of residents who addressed County Council during the public-comment portion of the meeting, encouraging them to vote in favor of the purchase. “The Angel Oak is an iconic symbol not only of Johns Island, but of the entire Lowcountry,” he said.
County Council’s Finance Committee approved the plan last week with a unanimous vote and two conditions — the nonprofit Carolina Homeless Veterans must have access to five acres for farming, and the park must be owned and run by the county’s Park & Recreation Commission.
On Tuesday, the full council reversed those conditions.
Instead, the Park & Recreation Commission will allow Carolina Homeless Veterans to farm three to five acres near the Mullet Hall Equestrian Center on the southern end of Johns Island. And the Lowcountry Open Land Trust will own the 17-acres of park land.
Elizabeth Hagood, the trust’s executive director, said her group hopes to raise a portion of the $1.2 million from the State Conservation Bank, which would not contribute money to a park that was owned by a county. It would, however, contribute money to a park owned by a city or a nonprofit organization, and the Park & Recreation Commission could operate and manage the park, she said.
She also said the land, which is part of a 34-acre parcel, is available because the city of Charleston approved it for development several years ago, but before shovels hit the dirt it fell into foreclosure.
The other 17 acres still could be developed.
At the request of Councilman Joe Qualey, Lowcountry Open Land Trust leaders said they would work with Charleston to attempt to downgrade the zoning of the other 17 acres of land so they could not be developed.
If that doesn’t happen, Qualey said, the group possibly will return to County Council in the future asking for millions of dollars to buy it to save it from development.
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.
The Angel Oak towers above visitors Thursday, July 11, 2013 at Angel Oak Park on Johns Island. Charleston County Council has approved spending $2.4 million to purchase land adjacent to the Angel Oak Park for use as a public park.(Paul Zoeller/postandcourier.com)×
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