The Lowcountry Open Land Trust has a little breathing room in its push to raise $1.2 million to purchase land to expand Angel Oak Park.
Elizabeth Hagood, the trust's executive director, said the Raleigh-based Coastal Federal Credit Union, which owns the 17 acre parcel of land, originally gave the group until Sept. 30 to raise the money. But on Thursday, it extended the deadline nearly two months, to Nov. 21.
That's good news, Hagood said. The trust so far has raised about $650,000. Now it has a little more time to raise the final $550,000 needed to purchase the $3.6 million property.
The trust launched the campaign in July to buy the land to expand the park around the historic tree on Johns Island.
The word about the effort finally has become widespread, she said, and donations have grown in recent days. “We've got so much momentum now.”
Hagood said the extension also gives the trust time to possibly receive a grant from the S.C. Conservation Bank.
The trust has applied for money, she said, but the bank's board can't consider applications until its next meeting on Nov. 6.
Conservationists have said they want the land around the 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 other 17 acres still are zoned for development.
But, Hagood said, her group has begun discussing with a developer the possibility of buying that parcel, as well. That would further ensure the tree's health, she said.
If the trust raises more than $1.2 million in the next two months, it would use the additional money either to help purchase the second parcel, or to care for the first 17 acres.
Charleston County Council made the arrangement to purchase the $3.6 million property possible in July 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.
Greenbelt money comes from the half-cent sales tax and is earmarked to preserve green space.
Hagood said about 9,000 people and groups have donated to the Angel Oak effort so far. The trust hopes to bring that number to at least 10,000, she said.
One of those groups is the Town of Seabrook Island, which contributed $20,000 from its allocation of Greenbelt money.
Randy Pierce, Seabrook's town administrator, said the town hasn't been able to spend its money because it favors using it on land that has public access. Seabrook Island is gated, he said, and there are few land parcels or projects on which it can spend its $130,000 allocation.
Contributing to expand Angel Oak Park makes sense for islanders, he said. First, it's not far from the island and it's something residents enjoy, he said. And preventing the parcel from being developed reduces traffic. “It makes the roads a little safer,” he said. “It keeps it more rural instead of developing every little parcel of land that's out there.”
Hagood said she knows the final stretch of fundraising won't be easy. “We still have a good way to go,” she said. “We're optimistic and pushing hard.
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.