A roughly 2,000-acre tract of farmland on Wadmalaw Island recently changed hands for $18.36 million in what amounts to one of the biggest real estate transactions for the rural area.
John and Theodora Walpole and other family members sold the huge parcel along Point Farm Road in April to an affiliate of American Timberlands Co., which has offices in Columbia and Pawleys Island.
"We are long-term land investors," said Thomas Rowland, president and CEO of American Timberlands. "Our strategy is high-end recreation. Right now, we plan to use it as a recreational property, a park for our investors and clients to use and entertain. We plan to hunt, fish and build a new lodge there."
Founded in 2004, American Timberlands owns and manages about 100,000 acres of forestland valued at about $250 million in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. The Wadmalaw property is its only holding in the Charleston region.
While Rowland said there are no plans to develop the site between Leadenwah Creek and the Wadmalaw River about 25 miles southwest of Charleston, he said the site off Bears Bluff Road has "tremendous real estate development potential."
"It's got deep water, long-range marsh views and it's in Charleston County," he said. "Ideally, what we would like to do is to be a good steward of the land. We would like to see that piece of land taken care of and not become some high-density piece of real estate development."
Rowland said the Walpoles divested the property as part of an estate plan. The sellers could not be reached for comment Friday.
Dana Beach of the Coastal Conservation League is hopeful a protective mechanism can be worked out for the tract.
"It's one of the larger properties left on Wadmalaw, and it's not currently protected," Beach said. "The best case scenario is that we get an easement on it."
Beach said it's worth noting that Wadmalaw was the first place to get protective zoning in the Lowcountry. The rules allow one residential unit per 15 acres on the interior portion and one unit for every three acres on the waterfront.
"It's zoned as protectively as you can get in South Carolina," Beach said.
"Ideally, we would all like to see it remain as it is," Beach said. "It has very important ecological features, and the watershed is one of the most pristine in the state. It's attractive and developable. I'm optimistic we can work something out that would provide a financial outcome for him and give a protected land base."