Along Shem Creek in the neighborhood adjacent to Chuck Dawley Boulevard, a two-acre tract of woods has long provided a haven for children to escape into nature. Thanks to the efforts of a neighborhood association and one local nonprofit, the prime piece of real estate will remain undeveloped and available for future generations of young explorers. The Shemwood II parcel is just one success story of the East Cooper Land Trust (ECLT), known until summer 2013 as the Mount Pleasant Land Conservancy. The organization has protected 13 parcels of land, including 57 acres along Rifle Range Road that feature the .25-mile Marsh View Trail and a butterfly garden (find details on this and other ECLT-protected properties at www.eastcooperland.org). That’s a perfect example of what we’re trying to create—properties that are accessible to the public,” explains executive director Catherine Main, adding that local school groups often utilize the space for environmental education programs.
ECLT differs from other land preservation groups by emphasizing people. Both rural and urban parcels are considered not only for their ecological value but for cultural and historic significance. The new name underscores a widened geographic emphasis on all of the land between the Cooper and Santee rivers, and the group is currently inventorying all the parcels in that area in order to become more proactive in seeking out landowners who might benefit from placing a conservation easement on their property. “We don’t want to sit back and wait for people to come to us,” says Main, noting a series of workshops ECLT will host in early 2014 in communities like Awendaw and Cainhoy. “A lot of times, people love their land and want to protect it from development, but they also need to be able to make money off it. Easements are flexible and can be a win-win for a landowner.” Once land is sold, a family legacy is gone. ECLT seeks to keep that heritage intact while providing a means for community members frustrated with rapid development to help slow unbridled growth.
Want to assist their mission? The third annual Race and Roast is March 2 at Oakland Plantation, a property protected by an ECLT conservation easement. After a 5K run through maritime forest, celebrate with an oyster roast and live music.
Race & Roast: Sunday, March 2, 12:30 - 4 p.m. at Oakland Plantation, off Porchers Bluff Rd. between Hwy. 17 N. and Rifle Range Rd., Mount Pleasant. $55-$45; $40-$30 roast only; free for child under 11. www.eastcooperland.org