Today's students at Haut Gap Middle School are able to cross Bohicket Road and visit a Lowcountry landmark: the Angel Oak.
Twenty years from now, they might well return to the Angel Oak as environmentalists - a passion fueled by the fact that they helped save the tree from being choked by adjacent development.
They, along with other schools, thousands of individuals, governmental bodies and civic organizations, contributed enough money - $6.8 million - to purchase 35 acres of land surrounding the awe-inspiring live oak. If they hadn't done so, the acreage would have been developed into dense apartments and retail space.
Instead, it will be protected forever by a conservation easement. The Lowcountry Open Land Trust (LOLT), which spearheaded the campaign and closed on the deal Friday, has made that a priority. LOLT also will work with the public and the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission to add educational features.
Congratulations go all around: to Charleston County Council, the Charleston County Greenbelt Board, the S.C. Conservation Bank, the city of Charleston, Seabrook and Kiawah islands and Rockville.
To eight schools, 13 civic organizations, 11 corporations and foundations, three faith groups and more than 10,000 individual donors.
And beneficiaries live far beyond Johns Island. People all across the country, and some beyond, responded to Samantha Siegel's grass-roots "Save the Angel Oak" campaign to stop development that could harm the tree and diminish the public's enjoyment of it. They want future generations to experience the Angel Oak's majesty - its 25-foot girth, 1,889-square-yard canopy and history that spans hundreds of years.
The struggle to save the property began with Ms. Siegel six years ago. LOLT began fund-raising only nine months ago. Its success is testimony to the deep connection people feel to the tree. The Angel Oak was threatened; they stepped up to protect it.
Queen Quet of the Gullah Geechee Nation was quoted in the spring edition of "Saving Land" magazine: "When you walk around the Angel Oak ... you immediately sense its breadth and depth as beyond your reach. ... The campaign to save Angel Oak shows us how a community can shape its landscape."
It's a major victory.
And it will be even more of a victory if it works to inspire more community efforts on behalf of preserving the treasures of our environment.
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