The Lowcountry Open Land Trust has a long way to go to raise $1.2 million to expand Angel Oak Park, but local groups are stepping in to help.

To donate

To donate to help the Lowcountry Open Land Trust raise $1.2 million to expand Angel Oak Park, visit or call 577-6510.

The trust last month launched the campaign with a goal to raise the final portion of money to buy 17 acres to expand the park around the historic tree on Johns Island. So far it has brought in $400,000, or about a third of the amount it needs to raise by Sept. 30.

Conservationists have said they want the land around the historic tree protected from intense development to maintain the health of the massive live oak, which is believed to be at least several centuries old.

The land that the trust is trying to buy is part of a 34-acre parcel that was going to be developed with multifamily homes and businesses, but it fell into foreclosure during the economic downturn. The trust has a contract on the property, which it must purchase by Sept. 30. The other 17 acres still are zoned for development.

Charleston County Council made the arrangement to purchase the $3.6 million property possible last month when it agreed to contribute $2.4 million from rural Greenbelt money toward buying the land. That left the trust to raise the final $1.2 million.

Hacker Burr, Charleston Collegiate School’s head of school, said he thinks the Johns Island school’s 220 students will take on the issue as a public service project when they return to class. “It’s a project near and dear to the hearts of the community.”

Burr said he’s not sure what the effort will look like, but it will be more than students asking their parents to contribute money. “It will be an exciting learning opportunity,” he said.

Adrian Cain, the trust’s director of development, said the $400,000 raised includes a pledge of $250,000 from the city of Charleston, which Mayor Joe Riley announced last month. The contribution must be approved by City Council Wednesday. But, Cain said, “we know there is great support throughout council.”

It also includes a $50,000 donation from the Historic Charleston Foundation, he said, and about 200 smaller donations.

Piggly Wiggly has made a big step to help in the effort too, Cain said. People can donate at 16 of its stores, and the company sends out weekly Facebook announcements on the project to about 58,000 people.

Mike McShane, the trust’s former board president, said the trust needs gifts of all sizes. “You can give $1 or $1,000. Everyone can participate and everyone benefits.”

It’s an iconic location that brings people together, he said. Both public and private groups have contributed so far, and that marks a collaboration that is not common in such fundraising efforts.

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.