Charleston County Aviation Authority and Lowcountry Land Trust on Friday announced the permanent protection of a 90-acre site once threatened by development in the heart of Johns Island. The announcement comes after years of collaboration through the Johns Island Community Conservation Initiative, a partnership of The Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation, Coastal Conservation League, Lowcountry Land Trust, and Open Space Institute.
Positioned at the mouth of Burden Creek, only a few feet above sea level, and sitting along Charleston’s Urban Growth Boundary adjacent to the Charleston Executive Airport, Oakville-Burden Creek’s 90 acres were once marked for development. Despite extensive discussion about the perils of developing flood-prone areas and vocal community opposition, zoning laws allowed for the construction of over 200 houses on the property.
In 2021, Charleston County Aviation Authority purchased the land, and last month, the property was permanently protected under a conservation easement placed by Lowcountry Land Trust. Funding for the purchase of the conservation easement was provided by South Carolina Conservation Bank and Charleston County Greenbelt Program.
The property protection not only offers benefits for quality of life and conservation, but also it plays a role to ensure incompatible uses don’t occur immediately adjacent to an airport. “The Aviation Authority remains cognizant of the need to preserve the environment while at the same time allowing for development and growth,” said Elliott Summey, CEO and executive director, Charleston County Aviation Authority.“The greenspace north of the airport will enhance the protection of land allowing the Authority to potentially create a future runway within the airfield footprint, acting as a buffer zone for safety and operational purposes.”
Lowcountry Land Trust, which has a strong reputation for collaborating with entities such as Boeing, Volvo and the South Carolina Ports Authority, holds the conservation easement. “The protection of Oakville-Burden Creek represents the power of collective work and reinforces the integrity of Johns Island’s historical, natural, and rural heritage resources and guarantees that development will never threaten Burden Creek again,” said Ashley Demosthenes, president and CEO, Lowcountry Land Trust. “A broad base of partnerships and relationships truly made this effort possible.
”The conservation easement comes at a critical moment as Johns Island’s agriculturally zoned farmland and forest properties, some close to Oakville-Burden Creek and the Urban Growth Boundary, are constantly threatened by development. Despite decades of tireless work by Johns Islanders and local partners, the cherished landscape could be lost in the blink of an eye.
Protecting Oakville-Burden Creek’s 90 acres is a major milestone in establishing a permanent greenbelt on JohnsIsland. It illustrates what can be done when a wide array of community members, organizations, and public entities work together toward a common goal.
“This conservation outcome is an example of what can happen when a local community organizes itself toadvocate for a solution that stops additional houses from being located in the floodplain and conservationists and local governments are able to utilize all available tools to respond to the issue,” said Jason Crowley, Senior Program Director for Communities and Transportation at the Coastal Conservation League. “Utilizing our local and state conservation funds to ensure that we are not continuing to build homes in low-lying vulnerable areas susceptible to sea level rise demonstrates how our public tax dollars can be invested to make our state more resilient and preserve the rural character of Johns Island.”
“Permanent conservation of the open space along the edge of the Urban Growth Boundary helps stabilize traditional rural communities by preventing suburban sprawl and the associated increase in taxes and service fees,” remarked Michelle Sinkler, Special Projects Director for the Open Space Institute.
“The preservation of this tract of land is beneficial to reducing the encroachment and development that threatens heirs’ property,” said Dr. Jennie L. Stephens, CEO for the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation™. “Protecting Oakville-Burden Creek will continue the resilience and determination of preserving not only the land, but also the history, culture and legacy of Johns Island for generations to come.”