Limehouse Point has potential for linking, paddle trail, greenway

The Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission has received 87 acres of land between Rantowles Creek and the Limehouse Bridge over the Stono River. The land donation, known as Limehouse Point, has 50 acres of marsh, 25 acres of highland and a 12-acre island. Buy this photo

The property nobody wanted is poised to become a key point in greenway and water trails that could run the entire coast.

By the numbers

87 acres total on the Stono River and Rantowles Creek

50acres marsh

25 acres highland

12-acre island

13th new property acquired by the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission in the past five years

Brings the commission’s property holdings to about 10,000 acres, about the size of Kiawah Island

Limehouse Point has been donated to the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission to develop as a passive trail park. The 87-acre tract, on the west bank of the Stono River and the north bank of Rantowles Creek near Ravenel, includes marsh, mainland high ground and a 12-acre island. It features mature hardwoods and wide-open views across the marsh to the river and creek.

For better or worse, it’s just upstream of a popular party-boat sandbar and Wolf Island, where partiers and others occasionally camp overnight.

Park officials don’t yet know whether they will be able to build a bridge 700 feet from the mainland to the island, and no definite plans have been made for the property. But it sits at the southern end of the West Ashley Greenway and along a proposed countywide “blueway,” or paddling trail. Rantowles Creek is a popular paddling destination.

The greenway is intended as a leg in the proposed East Coast Greenway ?from Maine to Florida; the blueway is proposed to be the route through the county for a saltwater paddling trail from Virginia to around Florida that’s in concept planning.

The park could connect the greenway with the blueway and serve as a trailhead for both.

“I think (the island) has great potential to serve as a stopping point,” possibly including picnic tables, restrooms or camping sites, said Julie Hensley, planning director for the PRC. “We’re just at the planning stage, but it’s pretty exciting because it’s part of a bigger trail system.”

The property with its hardwoods is still a relatively natural spot, said Walter Hall, of Yukon Property Consultants in Atlanta, who has walked it and who consulted on its conservation.

“You go out there in the evening and early morning, and the birds in those oaks are magnificent. You just go out there and listen,” he said.

Wilder than the environs is the tale of how the property became a park. It was slated for development when the 2008 housing crash occurred.

“The developer failed. The bank foreclosed, and then the bank failed,” Hall said. It ended up in the hands of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, among billions of dollars worth of foreclosed/failed properties. With the housing slowdown and the difficulty winning environmental permitting needed to develop it, FDIC couldn’t sell the property.

In stepped Jenny and Mike Messner of Charleston, with partners Betsy and Paul Shiverick. The Messners run the Speedwell Foundation and a Red Fields to Green Fields program looking to conserve urban green space.

The two couples acquired, conserved and donated the land to the park commission. The commission was a natural beneficiary, Hall said.

“This is a property nobody wanted. These kinds of passive parks add to property values and improve the quality of life. This is a fabulous sort of public-private partnership, something worth crowing about,” he said.

And the Messners hope to create other parks like it in South Carolina, he said.

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on Twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.

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