Cruise along some portions of scenic Riverland Drive on James Island and it's easy to forget you're a stone's throw from downtown Charleston.

If you go

What: Public workshop on the Riverland Drive Corridor Management Plan

When: 5:30-7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: James Island Town Hall, 1238B Camp Road

Moss-draped oaks form a canopy and the road winds past several miles of pristine woodlands along the Stono River.

The Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments wants to keep it that way, said senior planner Nick Pergakes. The group is about to launch a study on how best to protect and preserve the 4.8-mile stretch, which runs from Wappoo Hall Road to Grimball Road, and its surrounding environment.

It then will develop a formal "corridor management plan" for Riverland Drive, which the state Department of Transportation designated as a scenic byway in 1988.

The plan will be paid for with a $35,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration, he said.

There already is development pressure on the road, as new subdivisions crop up and as more cars from Johns Island use the road a way to avoid the crowded Maybank and Folly roads. The area to be studied includes Riverland Terrace, across Maybank Highway and goes to the intersection with Grimball Road near Folly. Some portion of the scenic road will also be impacted by building the Interstate 526 connector.

James Island residents recently were up in arms about development along the more crowded and commercial Maybank Highway. There the city of Charleston's plans to create a gathering place near Folly Road and Maybank Highway led to the cutting of hundreds of trees for a high-density apartment complex.

Many residents said they didn't find out about the development until after the approvals were issued by the city.

The Riverland Drive process begins Tuesday evening, with a public workshop at James Island Town Hall, Pergakes said. At that meeting, he will make a presentation on the study and the plan. Then, members of the public can make comments on what they think are important issues and opportunities for the roadway.

The Council of Governments will use the comments it gathers from residents, as well as input from a technical committee of representatives from the city of Charleston, the town of James Island and Charleston County, to create a vision for the next 10 to 15 years, Pergakes said.

It will hold another public meeting in the summer, and the plan will be completed some time in the fall.

"It's all community-driven," Pergakes said of the plan. "It's the community coming together and identifying the issues."

Perkgakes said it's especially important to preserve the scenic vistas and live oak trees. But, he said, much of the land along the road is zoned for residential development. The plan might include recommendations such as wooded buffers between the road and housing developments.

Tom Garrick, who lives on Riverland Drive in the Riverland Crossing development, said he's concerned about a proposed roundabout at the intersection of Riverland Drive and Camp Road, which would take half of his backyard.

If local leaders are trying to preserve the character of Riverland Drive, they are going about it the wrong way, he said. The roundabout would "change the whole character of it," he said. "It would make it more of a modern-type highway with faster traffic."

Charleston City Councilman Bill Moody, whose district includes a portion of Riverland Drive, said he doesn't think it's possible to make one plan for the entire stretch of road. "There's such a mixed use out there right now," he said.

That area is growing rapidly and the traffic on Riverland Drive already is heavy, he said. "If we don't widen it, we need another road that is parallel to Folly Road," he said. "I want to preserve as much as we can, but at the same time, we have to provide access to those areas."

City Councilman Dudley Gregorie said he thinks "Riverland is a very scenic drive and it needs to be protected." He needs more information on the study and the plan, he said. But he thinks it's important to ensure that new development is compatible with a scenic route.

For instance, he said, the planned roundabout at Camp Road should include some trees and perhaps a water feature. "If it's just hard concrete and nothing more, it would less palatable to the residents."

Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.