SUMMERVILLE — The three-century-old birthplace of this town is a step closer to being reclaimed.
Annexation of the Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site by the town of Summerville has been approved by the state Budget and Control Board.
The state must now apply for the annexation.
Town Council then would hold two votes and a public hearing before the site could be brought in. Mayor Bill Collins said that could happen within a few months.
Collins also is looking to improve the town’s popular recreation trail nearby.
Collins has sought the annexation, banking on the unusual prestige of having a historic and archaeological trove in town limits to enhance the tourism appeal of both.
Colonial Dorchester is the site of one of the 1600s “lost towns,” the beginnings of inland settlement in the region. Its settler families became the founders of Summerville.
It’s the only one of the “lost towns” where some structures remain above ground — a tabby fort and the bell tower from the St. George Church, one of the oldest standing structures in the Lowcountry.
The annexation would allow the town to use hospitality-tax money, and the town and the site to apply for grants to further develop it to draw tourists.
The Budget and Control Board approval “is a step closer to getting Colonial Dorchester more entwined with the Summerville community,” said site manager Ashley Chapman. “It’s a step to new support and funding for tourism in the area.”
Because most of the 325-acre Colonial Dorchester lies across the Ashley River, an annexation also would give the town annexing presence on development-ripe Ashley River Road, where North Charleston already has established a presence.
The trails of the historic site make it a natural destination for the town’s popular Sawmill Branch biking/hiking trail that now ends nearby.
Collins said he wants to “make the trail something truly special,” working with local businesses and homeowner associations along the trail to develop watch patrols, rest and exercise stations and maybe adding landscape features that evoke the homelands of locally operating, foreign-based companies.
“I want to get the community engaged in this,” he said.
Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on Twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.
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