A New Park is Born
Message From The Director
Our State Parks have a variety of origin stories. One was purchased with the help of pennies collected by schoolchildren in the 1930s, while some were purchased using federal money or were gifted from the federal government. Others are actively leased from the federal government, private and public organizations. Parks can be donated, with restrictions on their use, or acquired to protect a valuable historic resource. Throughout the years, land has been secured for a new use or even to protect current use at an existing site. Each park has a unique story that shapes what it has become. For some sites, those stories are ongoing-- while others are just beginning.
Over the past three years, I have had some great opportunities to look at different properties around the state that for one reason or another, were presented for consideration as park property. These lands are sometimes offered to us as a donation, but more frequently they are for sale. I have been fortunate to tour properties from the mountain to the sea, by boat, on foot and by ATV. These tours always reinforce what a beautiful state we live in. South Carolina is blessed with incredible and diverse natural resources and rich history! In parks, we get to share those resources and tell that story. I frequently get asked what we consider when looking at lands for a new park, and it is a tricky question to answer.
A large part of our mission is to encourage people to discover South Carolina by providing resource-based recreational and educational opportunities. Whenever we are looking at property, these are questions we ask ourselves. Is this a resource we currently do not have available to share? Is it in an area that doesn’t have good public access? Is it unique enough to attract visitors from around the state and region? Does it have a natural or cultural resource that is of state significance? Admittedly, this is a pretty high bar to reach, and we have to consider each property not only in its current condition, but as what it could be. We consider the impacts of population growth on demand and any opportunities for the development of facilities that may enhance our ability to manage the site. It usually takes some dreaming, combined with experience, to decide if the property is a good fit. We consider long-term costs as well as the natural or historic significance of the site to determine if it is a resource that needs protection. Many times, we pass on these properties or refer them to other agencies whose mission may align more with the long-term protection goals for the property owner --but not always.
Almost two years ago, we were approached by a group about participating in a conservation effort that included the possibility of a new state park. Honestly, I wasn’t optimistic at first. I had seen too many presentations that were more of a sales pitch to buy land than a true effort to create a park, but this group was different. Their plan consisted of several conservation organizations that had been actively working for years to protect land along the Black River in South Carolina. The group shared a vision for creating access to a world-class resource right here in our state. They had pictures, graphs, and charts, and very memorably, opened one of our own state park maps, showing all 47 parks, and highlighted the largest open space on the map – Kingstree/Andrews, SC, right on the Black River. During that initial meeting, they shared the conservation efforts that had already been happening on the river, told us about the incredible community support and discussed partners who were already on board. While they were hoping to get us excited and possibly involved, they were probably unaware that they had us hooked from the first minutes of that meeting.
Since then, the momentum has grown and the State Park Service has received the first piece of land we will hold in this project. The park will be like none we have ever had, including partnerships with land conservation groups around the state to provide access to one of South Carolina’s most scenic and unique habitats. South Carolina State Parks is fortunate to play a role with many great private and public sector partners in creating a park experience along the Black River. The planning work is underway and we are excited to share that information. Read the press release announcing the park, as well as, the story map.
Soon, we will have more than the 47 parks we currently offer. Our Park system is growing to better serve the citizens of South Carolina. As opportunities arise, we will always do our best to conserve, protect and interpret some of the special places that add to what makes our state such a great place to live, but even more important, we will always do our best to share those places with everyone.