The Town of Kingstree is set to receive a $4.6 million federal appropriation, thanks to Senator Lindsey Graham's including it in this year's US budget. Of that amount, Kingstree will receive $3 million earmarked for work at the 18-acre Black River Landing (currently known as Mill Street Landing), while Ben Ervin Landing in Bloomingvale and Rocky Point Community Forest in the Choppee area of Georgetown County will each receive $800,000. The Town will administer the funds for all three recipients. All three properties are a part of the Black River Water Trail and Park Network, which has been designated as South Carolina's newest state park, the first state park to be created in over 20 years.
The Town of Kingstree will use these funds to enlarge the boat ramp at the landing and begin work on the boardwalk, which will allow visitors to experience the swamp up-close. The Town has also received a South Carolina Parks Recreation and Tourism grant, which will go towards developing a new parking lot for the landing. The addition of public restrooms at the landing is also a goal for 2023.
Black River Landing and Ben Ervin Landing are two of the properties and landings in Williamsburg County, which will be linked into an innovative water trail and state park, designed to give the public more access to approximately 70 miles of the Scenic Black River. A total of 12 properties in Williamsburg and Georgetown counties will make up the water trail and park network, with Black River Landing serving as the gateway to the entire network.
The other properties in Williamsburg County include the Hinds-Canada tract, approximately six miles downriver from Black River Landing, which will be accessed from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Highway (SC-377) and a nearby larger tract with access from US-521. When completed, these two tracts will be designed to look like what we except to see in a traditional state park setting with the Hinds-Canada tract eventually offering an outfitters center, paddler pull-off and board walk, a boat launch, camping, trails, pond fishing and kayaking. Most of this tract will remain in its natural state for exploring, birdwatching, hiking and fishing.
The tract to be accessed for US-521 is only a half-mile downriver from the Hinds-Canada tract and will become the network's central hub. A visitor's center and shuttle stop would be a part of this tract, which would also be an overnight stop for paddlers attempting the entire run of the river network.
Other properties in Williamsburg County that will be included in the Black River Water Trail and Park Network include the Colonial Tract, located near the Sims Reach Bridge on Sims Reach Road; a tract designated as Unit Three, just upriver from Ben Ervin Landing, with access from Thurgood Marshall Highway (SC-527). This tract includes two miles of river frontage and will have eight miles of hiking trails, camping and cabins/treehouses for rent.
The tracts in Georgetown County are largely concentrated near the Town of Andrews, with the exception of the Rocky Point Community Forest off Choppee Road and Ramsey Grove Plantation on Ramsey Grove Road.
The creation of the trail and park network will provide more public access to Black River, as 40 percent of South Carolina residents will live within a 100-mile or less daytrip from the network.
The parks and landings will also help to protect and interpret the cultural history of the area from the history of indigenous peoples to those who were enslaved to work on the large rice plantations that once dotted the more eastern portions of the river to the role the river played in both the American Revolution and the Civil War.
In conserving the natural resources and wilderness areas of the river, the system will help make the surrounding land more resilient to flooding.
South Carolina already generates more than 72,000 direct jobs in eco-tourism, with a payroll of $2.9 million. This new network of river trails and parks will eventually provide a major economic boost to our rural area of the state.