Individuals, organizations and municipalities that donate toward the expansion of the Angel Oak park need only visit the grand tree to be assured they are doing a very good thing.
The magnificent centuries-old tree, a cultural icon and a thing of inspiring beauty, clearly should be given all the protection it needs to thrive for more generations of admirers.
But that protection comes at a price. Many more people who care about the tree need to show it by making a contribution to the cause through the Lowcountry Open Land Trust.
LOLT is off to a good start. It has $500,000 in firm pledges toward the $1.2 million that must be received by Sept. 30 to purchase 17 acres adjacent to the park and give the Angel Oak breathing room. The actual cost of the land is $3.6 million. Charleston County Council committed $2.4 million of rural Greenbelt money, and LOLT agreed to raise the rest.
If fund-raising efforts fall short, the acreage could be densely developed. And if it is developed, the health of the tree and the tranquil atmosphere that surrounds it could be compromised.
That’s why Elizabeth Hagood, LOLT director, isn’t even entertaining the thought of failure. The site is far too important to the community.
And clearly the community doesn’t want the opportunity to be lost. The city of Charleston has promised $250,000. Seabrook Island Town Council recently voted to give $20,000 to the campaign. The Historic Charleston Foundation has contributed $50,000. The Johns Island Rotary Club has stepped up. And so far 6,100 people have made donations at local Piggly Wiggly stores.
The Kiawah Community Association has donated. And Kiawah resort employees are collecting money, which will be matched by Kiawah Development Partners. Unfortunately, Kiawah Town Council deferred action on a gift to the park.
A family foundation in California promised $15,000 and a New York resident who likes to visit the Lowcountry sent $5,000.
Volunteers used the first month to make requests. They hope those calls will result in gifts that come in during this, the second and final month. Donations may be sent to LOLT, 43 Wentworth Street, Charleston, SC 29401.
Mrs. Hagood said LOLT hopes that 10,000 people will donate to the cause. The Angel Oak is very special to many people. And widespread participation would be helpful in two ways. Beyond the purchase of these 17 acres, community enthusiasm and commitment could help enlarge the park even more. Another adjacent 17-acre parcel is zoned for dense development. LOLT would like to raise money to purchase that site as well, giving the Angel Oak more protection and providing more space for walking trails and educational features.
If it sounds overly ambitious, we recommend a visit to the Angel Oak on Johns Island off Bohicket Road.
Sit under the tree’s spreading branches. Marvel at the enormity of its trunk. Listen to the quiet, broken only by birds. Imagine the generations of people from Johns Island and beyond who have picnicked, the people who have gotten engaged and the family pictures that have been snapped there.
And imagine how much grander it will be in a much expanded setting.
It’s a treasure that shouldn’t be diminished by development. And it’s a cause that everyone can support and feel good about. Very good.
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