The news that the Prince George Tract near Pawley’s Island has been purchased from the University of South Carolina and will be preserved is a triumph for conservationists — and the resolution of a long struggle.
The unnamed buyer plans to put conservation easements on the 1,200 acres of coastal real estate that has barely escaped development into hundreds of condominiums or single-family estates.
A strong conservation easement would be good news for water quality and would mean the red-cockaded woodpeckers that live there and the marine life and waterfowl that live in and around its wetlands and marshes won’t be pushed out by lights, noise and buildings.
Coastal Conservation League executive director Dana Beach called the tract “a superb addition to the continuous corridor of protected coastal habitat.” It extends from Pawley’s across to the northern tip of the Isle of Palms.
If it’s true that the more difficult something is, the more it means, then the Prince George Tract’s conservation means a lot. A whole lot.
Lucille Vanderbilt Pate, daughter of George Vanderbilt who purchased the property for hunting, sold it in 1985 to developers with plans to build a huge condominium complex with 3,000 units, three golf courses and a convention hotel.
In 1991, however, financial woes caused the property to be taken by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. It was purchased by the University of South Carolina Development Foundation with financial backing by a developer who received 617 acres while USC kept 1,282. The developer divided his share into 150 large single-family lots.
USC had indicated the land would be studied as relates to ecotourism, but it didn’t move on it, and in 2013 USC Development offered it for sale to augment dwindling funds.
That announcement angered conservationists who pointed out that the property had originally been envisioned for conservation and scientific research.
Meanwhile, area residents had hoped for a county park .
Assuming the new owner is true to his word, this purchase could be the end of a chapter of fierce politics and lawsuits.
And a happy end at that.
The news release, issued by a public relations firm representing the buyer, said that PG Preservation was formed to acquire and protect the “environmentally sensitive tract” in perpetuity. At present, 55 percent of the tract is under an easement. PG Preservation wants to protect it all.
Mr. Beach expressed gratitude to the USC Foundation as well as the new buyer for protecting “one of the coast’s most beautiful, most strategic and threatened properties.”
One need only drive around the Lowcountry to see just how threatened such properties are. Subdivisions seem to spring up monthly, and developers’ appetite for more isn’t waning. A prime piece of ocean-front land would make a perfect target for them.
Some things are worth fighting for. Conserving the Prince George Tract is surely one of those things.