The beloved Angel Oak is only $75,000 away from the much-needed assurance that adjacent properties will not be developed.
That goal seems infinitely doable, given that the campaign has already raised over $6.8 million.
But the Friday, March 14, deadline, just a week from now, looms. And if the balance doesn't come in by then, an eager developer is in the wings.
There is every reason to believe the community will rise to the occasion. More than 10,000 people have already contributed money. Charleston County has designated $4.9 million of Greenbelt funds toward the effort; the City of Charleston, $650,000; the S.C. Conservation Bank, $890,000; Seabrook Island, $70,000; and Kiawah Island, $10,000.
The Lowcountry Open Land Trust (LOLT) and the Historic Charleston Foundation each gave $50,000; and Blackbaud and Boeing each gave $25,000.
Elizabeth Hagood, LOLT executive director, said some donors were waiting to see what County Council would do before pitching in, so the fund-raising timeline was shortened. But an anonymous donor made what she calls "a very generous gift" toward the necessary $400,000 and made the end goal reachable - if the community does its part.
Bringing in $75,000 is no small feat, but neither is producing a huge live oak from a tiny acorn - an oak that would shade generation after generation and survive fierce hurricanes.
Angel Oak advocates come from all walks of life - children awed by the mammoth limbs (the longest is 89 feet long and more than 11 feet around), church groups sharing potluck picnics, science students, men popping the question, conservationists and historians.
Indeed, were it not for the public response to a grassroots campaign, the tree might already be surrounded by dense apartments.
Now, it will not only be protected from run-off, lights, noise and pollution from such development but be comfortably situated on an expanded site that will accommodate walking trails and educational features.
A farm on the other side of the tree has already been put under a conservation easement.
LOLT, which has spearheaded the fund-raising efforts and will own the property, took on the project in two stages. The first, 17 acres, was completed in January.
The second one, now close to completion, is 18.7 acres,
It was an ambitious overall project made possible because of the Angel Oak's extraordinary appeal to people.
Donations may be sent to the Lowcountry Open Land Trust, 43 Wentworth Street, Charleston, 29401. Or gifts can be made online at LOLT.org.
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