East Cooper marsh, island protected in conservation deal

Looking toward Sullivan's Island and the Ben Sawyer bridge from a marsh island along Conch Creek, which is now owned by the East Cooper Land Trust. Provided.

MOUNT PLEASANT — A land deal involving hundreds of acres of salt marsh and a small island on the north side of the Ben Sawyer causeway has doubled the amount of property protected by the East Cooper Land Trust.

The roughly 5-acre island along the Intracoastal Waterway and Conch Creek can be seen from the Ben Sawyer Bridge, north of Gold Bug Island. Like Gold Bug Island and Toler's Cover, the island purchased by the East Cooper Land Trust was created years ago by dredge spoils.

“The property owners bought it 49 years ago with the intention of putting a marina there, but they were never able to get the permits," said Land Trust Director Catherine Main. “Our thought is that we could potentially use it for educational purposes."

Luke Lapierre is commodore of the East Cooper Outboard Motor Club, which owns Gold Bug Island. He said Gold Bug has been protected for about two decades by a conservation easement, and he was glad to hear of the surrounding marsh and nearby island being protected as well.

He said the owners of the undeveloped island approached the club years ago, hoping to create a road across the marsh.  

The East Cooper Land Trust purchase, Lapierre said, "would put the whole area into conservation."

The marsh and marsh island acquired by the trust have been owned for decades by the Conch Creek Corp.

“We bought the property 49 years ago hoping to turn it into a marina," said Robert Ragin, secretary of the corporation, in a statement. "Since that didn’t happen, we are pleased the property is permanently being conserved with the East Cooper Land Trust."

Along with the marsh, which was privately owned through a King's Grant, the East Cooper Land Trust deal involves 398 acres. The $238,800 purchase was made possible with a North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant in partnership with Duck Unlimited Inc., Main said.

The land trust hopes to use the island to benefit the public, possibly as a site for education and research, kayak access, and protection of bird and fish habitat.

The boundaries of the property extend nearly 3,500 feet along the Ben Sawyer Boulevard causeway, and more than 3,000 feet along the Intracoastal Waterway.

Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552. Follow him on Twitter @DSladeNews.