The Oaks Plantation property holds more than a half mile of marsh frontage along the Ashley River. Open Space Institute/Provided  

Nestled among the historic upper Ashley River plantations, a woodland park is planned.

Meanwhile, a huge marshland vista of Cape Romain that's considered a birder's paradise also will be opened to the public.

They are two of the more sizable scenic tracts being put under conservation easement as trusts and other protection groups put more emphasis on giving people access in the rapidly developing Charleston metro region.  

About 200 acres of the former Oaks Plantation on the Ashley River will be turned over to the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust to be managed as a passive park, according to the Open Space Institute, which is coordinating the purchase and conservation easement.

New park

The trust is working out details of how the park would be managed but wants to ensure broad public access.

"A nominal fee if any" might be charged to maintain the property, said Carter Hudgins, the trust's president.


The Oaks Plantation property has more than 100 acres of mature hardwood and pine with a largely clear understory. Provided/Open Space Institute   

It would be the first property opened to general public use at a modest fee or no cost along the historic plantation stretch of the Ashley River Road between Drayton Hall and Middleton Place. It includes more than a half mile of walking riverfront on old phosphate mining berms.

"The berms are about 15 feet high. You can walk on top of them and there are places you can see out over the marsh along them," said Patrick Moore, a project manager for the institute.

The institute is also handling a transfer of the 448-acre Stowe property near McClellanville to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be managed as part of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.

The property sits along the Intracoastal Waterway with sweeping views of the vast island seascape and within walking distance of the town.


The 448-acre Stowe property being transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service includes waterfowl impoundments as well as the remaining 24 acres of Pappys Island. Open Space Institute/Provided

"Its waterfowl impoundments will make it the most visited property in the refuge, I think," said Nate Berry, the institute's vice president. "The bird habitat is absolutely phenomenal."

The Oaks Plantation park site comes as a series of scenic lands designated to be open to the public are finally turning up on the upper Ashley near Summerville in the heart of the booming suburbs, where a shortage of public access have kept many people from enjoying the river.

"That would definitely be a plus," said Howard Bridgman of the state's Ashley River Scenic River Advisory Council.

The institute also is coordinating a transfer to the U.S. Forest Service of the 1,450-acre Atlantic Creosote tract, a largely longleaf pine property abutting the forest near the historic Brick Church and Wambaw Swamp, about 3 miles from McClellanville.

The three purchases, for a total $9 million, are proposed to be made with a total of $6.5 million of Charleston County Greenbelt funds, as well as federal, state and local conservation funds.

The Oaks Plantation property is owned by the Evening Post Industries, which owns The Post and Courier. The Atlantic Creosote property is owned by White Oak Forestry, an EPI subsidiary.

John Barnwell, chief executive officer of Evening Post Industries, said the company is excited to work with the institute and the Lowcountry Land Trust to conserve the highly sensitive Oaks tract for the community. He commended Charleston County for its Greenbelt fund work.

"During the early- to mid-1900s, the site was used for phosphate mining and the resulting berms and unusual terrain remain a part of the landscape today," Barnwell said. "Evening Post Industries purchased the Oaks some 50 years ago to save it from pending development, and the company has been a conservation steward of the property ever since."

The conservation easement is designed to protect the unique ecological and cultural resources of the tract, as well as allowing for compatible public access, Barnwell said.

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Reach Bo Petersen at @bopete on Twitter or 843-937-5744.