WestRock plan assures long-term conservation

A Summer Corner representative points out the community's layout in miniature scale. (Jim Parker/File)

The numbers are significant, and they begin with dozens of meetings with hundreds of community members, over the course of nine years. On the table: a vision plan for 72,000 acres of Lowcountry landscapes that stretch from Hollywood to Summerville, the Edisto River to Highway 165.

And the result is a testament to the power of shared effort. As announced on Thursday, WestRock Land and Development has endowed with $1.6 million the East Edisto Conservancy, a volunteer organization that will protect more than 53,000 acres (more than twice the size of Manhattan), in perpetuity. Funds will support the ongoing protection and conservation of this cherished land.

As Dana Beach, executive director of the Coastal Conservation League, noted at an announcement ceremony: “This landmark conservation agreement spans two counties and three major watersheds. It proves that commerce and conservation can not only coexist, but that they can dramatically enhance each other.”

To the hundreds of individuals who contributed their time, energy, and imagination to this victory, we say, “Thank you!”

Your input over these many years — and your faith in our intention — helped us to understand what was most important to your communities.

From that input, we arrived at four cornerstones for a healthy East Edisto:

Create jobs before homes.

Establish sustainable towns and villages.

Provide educational opportunities.

Maintain and preserve the character of the Lowcountry.

Our work at both Summers Corner and the future Spring Grove — the region’s first communities — stands as testament to our commitment to those four priorities.

And the restrictions granted by WestRock will assure no development occurs along the Edisto River and that the remainder of the land is restricted to very low rural densities.

Every individual who attended a community session after work, on a weekend, or early in the morning can be proud of his role in shaping those outcomes.

We are also grateful to the conservation and business leaders who have agreed to serve with me on the conservancy’s board:

Charles Lane, chair, ACE Basin Task Force,

Raleigh West, director, Lord Berkeley Land Trust,

Michael McShane, director, Ducks Unlimited,

William “Mac” Baughman, WestRock Land and Development.

It will be incumbent upon us all to adhere to the wishes of our communities, as they relate to this land.

I invite you to check in frequently at www.eastedisto.com — or drive around a bit along our forever tree-lined roads — to see how we are doing.

Kenneth T. Seeger is president of WestRock Land and Development.