There might just be something to the name Angel Oak.
Ever since the 34 acres of woods that surround the beloved Johns Island landmark were zoned for dense, multi-family development, “angels” have appeared: Tens of thousands joined Save the Angel Oak in advocating for keeping the area undeveloped. Ten thousand donated money to the recent campaign to purchase and preserve about half of the land in question. And the Lowcountry Open Land Trust, the state Conservation Bank, Charleston County, the City of Charleston, Seabrook Island and others all made significant donations to the cause.
But that only put the Angel Oak in the home stretch. The Lowcountry Open Land Trust, which has taken a leading role in efforts to preserve the property surrounding the oak, now has an option to purchase the remaining 18.7 acres and thus fully buffer the magnificent oak tree from harmful runoff, noise, pollution and visual blight.
On Tuesday, Charleston City Council agreed unanimously to contribute $400,000 toward the purchase. Charleston County will be asked to contribute $2.5 million in Greenbelt funds. And the Land Trust will ask donors to come up with $400,000 to reach $3.3 million.
The journey to this point has been difficult. And even now these financial issues have to be resolved within about six weeks.
We trust that officials will continue to recognize how important the Angel Oak is to people. Donations have come from all over the country. Locally, donors reflect the broader community — black, white, Hispanic; natives and transplants; wealthy citizens and little children who dropped their 25-cent allowances in jars at Piggly Wiggly stores.
Some consider the Angel Oak a sacred spot where community groups and individuals have gathered for generations.
The late Septima Clark, an honored civil rights activist, said it was one of the only places in the area that was never segregated.
Completing the buffer will also take financial support from people and organizations here and elsewhere who recognize the value of the iconic tree.
The grandeur of the live oak awes people, and continues to awe them visit after visit. Its limbs are each the size of large trees — the longest 89 feet in length and more than 11 feet in circumference.
With the purchase of the remaining 18 acres, school children, church groups, dreamers, botanists and couples about to get engaged would be able to visit the tree by walking along nature trails.
They would get information about its cultural, scientific and historic significance. And their children, grandchildren and great-granchildren will have the same opportunities.
It is right that something as extraordinary as the Angel Oak belongs to the public. And it is important to ensure that it is protected for the future.
The effort is now in the home stretch. Those who wish to help push it over the finish line may make donations at angeloakpreserve.com or lolt.org.
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