In the spring of 2014, with the help of over 10,000 supporters and numerous community partners, Lowcountry Land Trust completed the purchase and permanent protection of 35 acres adjacent to the Angel Oak tree that were zoned for high-density development.
Situated at a community crossroads in the heart of Johns Island, the 35 acres that comprise the “Angel Oak Preserve” have the potential to provide an opportunity for the community and visitors to gather, learn and celebrate both the area’s cultural and natural history – a project that could effect the way we engage as a community in our shared landscape.
This past summer, Lowcountry Land Trust heard about an impressive project being done by the Lookout Mountain Conservancy with the local schools and civic groups in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Lookout Mountain Conservancy had employed students from the Howard School, a high school adjacent to their own property, to work to create trails and make the property functional. Eager to learn more about this, Lowcountry Land Trust invited this group to come and speak to our own staff, board members and community partners on Johns Island who had a stake in the future of the Angel Oak Preserve. Each meeting brought about a different point of view and a different way to interpret what the Angel Oak Preserve could become. At the end of the trip, the Chattanooga students confirmed our belief that listening to the different perspectives of the community would allow our project to reveal itself in the process.
Currently, we are conducting extensive ecological and cultural research on the property and with members ofthe Johns Island community. Through the initial campaign and in our continued exploration, we continue to find the Angel Oak project is much bigger than the tree or the Preserve itself. It is about a community’s love of place and the effect that love of place can have. It catalyzes and brings about things we are not expecting. We are makinga point to stop, reflect and listen throughout the process. The result is always transcendent and stimulates new thinking and collaboration we could not have imagined. Ultimately, the Angel Oak reminds us we are connected to one another through our shared histories on the landscape. By nurturing the project and allowing the process to unfold naturally Angel Oak Effect has the potential to bring to life a community’s shared love of the land where they live.