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Sandy Island is to remain wild. Approximately 9,000 acres of pristine woodland along the South Carolina coast have been permanently protected thanks to the involvement of South Carolina's Coastal Program and its partners. Sandy Island, considered by many to be the most important piece of land on the South Carolina coast due to its unique ecology and history, is one of the last natural areas along this State's rapidly developing coastline. Until 1996, it was the largest privately owned freshwater island on the East Coast, about fifteen times the size of New York City's famous Central Park. Rich in nature and culture, the forested bluffs and deep, cypress studded creeks typical of Sandy Island have changed little with the passage of centuries. Located between the Waccamaw and Great Pee Dee Rivers near Georgetown, South Carolina, this is a place rich in wildlife habitats, including tidal freshwater forested wetlands, emergent marsh along blackwater and alluvial rivers, and a coastal maritime sandhill community that includes several thousand acres of old-growth longleaf pine. In addition to eagles, osprey, bear, deer and turkey, a significant population live there. On March 8, 1997, Sandy Island was dedicated as a Public Trust Preserve. During the dedication ceremony, the Chairman of South Carolina's Department of Transportation Commission said "Welcome to Forever" as a barred owl and a Cooper's hawk were released as symbols of the island's continuing natural state.

Mount Rena

Sandy Island is situated within the project boundary of the recently established Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge. The preserve is open to the public and has several boat landings and two nature trails for walking. The project is considered by many to be a model of how diverse public and private interests can form partnerships to protect significant natural resources within developing coastal landscapes of the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker that inhabits Sandy Island. About 120 people also call Sandy Island home. Many of them are descendants of slaves who worked the island's rice plantations prior to the Civil War. In 1997, an archaeological survey identified 51 sites on the island, some dating back 10,000 years, to be considered for addition to the National Register for Historical Places. In 1989, a controversy ignited when a development plan proposed that a major arterial road and bridge be built that would split Sandy Island in half and connect it to the mainland, potentially opening the remote island up to logging and residential development. This proposal sparked partnership. The Service's South Carolina Coastal Program, in collaboration with the Winyah Bay Focus Area Task Force (a cross-section of businesses, landowners, and agencies), identified the need to seek permanent protection of the property based on the unique natural resource values of Sandy Island.

Many interests then came together to make it happen. Other partners included the Federal Highway Agency, South Carolina Department of Transportation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Marine Fisheries Service, SC Department of Health and Environmental Control, SC Department of Natural Resources, SC Coastal Conservation League, and The Nature Conservancy. These groups joined forces with many private landowners whose love of the island's natural and cultural history was evident throughout the process. Funding for the purchase (fee-title acquisition) was obtained through a public/private partnership. South Carolina Coast Sandy Island's diverse topography, revealed through infrared photography, creates a rich variety of wildlife habitats.

Cockaded Woodpecker >>

New Bethel Baptist Church
 
 
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