Roxbury Park

WHAT: A 157-acre public nature park comprised of eight coastal ecosystems.

WHERE: S.C. Highway 174 at Toogoodoo Creek.

WHEN: Open Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

ADMISSION: Free.

Saturday: Fun with Fungi nature walk, 2 p.m.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: roxburypark.org.

MEGGETT - Everybody who loves the outdoors knows of one, it seems, a place where something almost magic happens every time you go.

It might be deer spooking into the swamp marsh, or a flock of white pelicans circling overhead, maybe just one more sighting of that bald eagle haunting the high branch in the tree at the edge of the pond.

With the recent opening of Roxbury Park, the town of Meggett just saved one of those places, Ken Carman said.

"The diversity of eight different ecosystems in a relatively confined space - I fell in love with it the first time I walked it," said Carman, who has become the park's caretaker.

The park is a 157-acre spread of creekfront, tidal marsh, a brackish and a freshwater pond, marsh, pines, a hayfield and an upland oak and hickory hardwood forest.

The acquisition is an oddity for tiny Meggett, a quaint town of a few more than 1,000 people that itself has the feel of parkland in the rural coastal countryside. A park wouldn't seem to be needed so much. But this wasn't about what the town needed, it was about what it didn't want to lose.

"We had the opportunity to help protect the property and keep it rural," said Mayor Buster Herrington.

The property sits right off S.C. Highway 174 along the creek, a cornerstone of the scenic landscape that is the signature of the place. It had been sold for development and work had begun.

"Residents who live nearby contacted us; they were worried about what was happening," Herrington said. Then the Charleston County Greenbelt Bank Board contacted the town. The property was back up for sale; the board committed $2.65 million for the town to purchase it.

There's already a few miles of walking trails. The town plans to connect them with boardwalks. There's fishing - catch and release - for blue gill and largemouth bass. A paddle launch is planned. The property also includes a cottage along the creek with a dock, and the town plans to rent that for special events, to help offset operating costs.

For now, Carman leads nature tours, including a Fun with Fungi tour on Saturday.

Azaleas and live oaks line the drive in. Water-spider orchids dot the ponds. Flying squirrels flit at night through the trees. A secretive resident otter occasionally shows its whiskers. The other day, bottlenose dolphins rounded the bend on the creek as they came up to the park, as far upstream as they have been seen, Carman said.

"I think it's beautiful. It's a blessing," Herrington said.

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