Morris Island deal's 2 central agreements extended 6 months

Two agreements that are central to the preservation plan for Morris Island were extended last week, just as they were about to expire.

At issue was a $1.5 million state Conservation Bank grant set to expire on Jan. 1, and a sale agreement with the owner of the land, the Ginn Company, that was due to expire Thursday.

The grant and the sales agreement were both extended by six months.

"It keeps the deal alive, and hopefully we'll have a good result six months from now," said Slade Gleaton, director of the South Carolina office of the Trust for Public Land.

"None of the terms have changed," Gleaton said. "Now we are looking to close by June 30."

The Trust, a nonprofit group, has been raising money to buy the privately owned northern tip of Morris Island, known as Cummings Point. The Ginn Company paid $6.8 million for the 126 acres, and then offered to sell the land to the Trust for $4.5 million, to see it preserved.

Selling land at a loss to a nonprofit group typically results in a substantial tax deduction. The plan for Morris Island calls for it to ultimately be jointly owned by Folly Beach, the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission and the S.C. Heritage Trust, and managed by the PRC.

The $1.5 million grant from the Conservation Bank would be added to about $1.5 million in Charleston County greenbelt funds, $1 million from the State Ports Authority and private donations.

One sticking point has been the Ginn Company's insistence that plans for the island include a dock and restrooms. Opponents of the concept fear it would open Morris Island to tour boats.

The county PRC is in the process of drafting a master plan for the island, which is supposed to be completed next year.

Officials from Folly Beach and James Island have said the city and town, respectively, are opposed to docks and restrooms.

Morris Island is a barrier island at the mount of the Charleston Harbor, near Folly Beach, and is accessible only by boat.

The island was involved in the initial bombardment of Fort Sumter and was the site of a major 1863 battle between Confederate troops and the Union's all-black 54th Massachusetts Regiment. The battle was depicted in the climactic scene of the movie "Glory."