Charleston County Aviation Authority and Lowcountry Land Trust 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.
“This conservation outcome is an example of what can happen when a local community organizes itself to advocate 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.
Protecting Oakville-Burden Creek’s 90 acres is a major milestone in establishing a permanent greenbelt on Johns Island. It illustrates what can be done when a wide array of community members, organizations, and public entities work together toward a common goal.
“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.
ABOUT LOWCOUNTRY LAND TRUST
Founded in 1986, Lowcountry Land Trust partners with landowners and community organizations to permanently protect and nurture land throughout coastal South Carolina. Lowcountry Land Trust holds conservation easements on over 150,000 acres across 17 counties in coastal South Carolina and manages community-centered places such as the Angel Oak Preserve. More information about the Lowcountry Land Trust is available at www.lowcountrylandtrust.org.
ABOUT CHARLESTON COUNTY AVIATION AUTHORITY
Chartered in 1970 by the State of South Carolina as a special purpose district, the governing body, the Charleston County Aviation Authority, is responsible for managing, operating and developing all public airports in the Charleston County Airport District. That includes CHS as well as general aviation facilities the Charleston Executive Airport (JZI) on Johns Island and the Mount Pleasant Regional Airport (LRO). The runways at CHS are owned by the U.S. Air Force and Joint Base Charleston and are shared by CHS through what is the longest running civilian/military joint-use agreement of its kind with the Department of Defense. Boeing South Carolina, the final assembly for the 787 Dreamliner, sits on approximately 730 acres of land adjacent to CHS.