CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC – Lowcountry Land Trust (LLT) has announced that, in partnership with a group of local stakeholders, it has selected Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects (NBW) to lead a comprehensive planning process for the much-anticipated Angel Oak Preserve, the 35-acre property surrounding the city’s nine-acre Angel Oak Park, which includes the iconic live oak. Local Charleston firm Robinson Engineering will provide key support.
“Nelson Byrd Woltz has a unique ability to connect people to each other and to special places through artful, intentional design,” remarked Ashley Demosthenes, president and CEO, Lowcountry Land Trust. “We look forward to working with the community to bring this special place to life in a way that honors its history and its important role in today’s growing landscape.”
Nelson Byrd Woltz was selected because of their depth of experience in leading similar public and private projects including public parks, academic institutions, botanical gardens and arboreta, and memorial landscapes.
“The grassroots effort to save this magnificent live oak, and the surrounding ecosystem, speaks to the power of nature to capture our collective imagination, bringing us together in service of a higher calling,” commented Thomas Woltz, principal, Nelson Byrd Woltz. “We are humbled by the opportunity to be a thought partner for the Lowcountry Land Trust and the regional community in protecting the powerful energy of this place. And we are excited by the opportunity to bring our tools of design to reveal the stories of the communities that support the Angel Oak.”
The comprehensive planning process will launch this summer and will include public meetings, surveys, stakeholder interviews with a goal of completing a design in early 2023.
Building on nearly 10 years of community outreach, the Angel Oak Preserve is intended to be a passive, publicly accessible green space that conserves and enhances the Angel Oak’s integrity and surrounding ecosystem; creates a consolidated use of the park and preserves across protected property boundaries; honors the rural and cultural context of the land; and provides a grounding, meaningful experience for all visitors.
A group of local stakeholders and community leaders are overseeing the process, including:
- The Avery Center
- Coastal Conservation League
- Lowcountry Land Trust staff and board
- Johns Island residents
- City of Charleston
- Charleston Parks Conservancy
- Gullah/Geechee Nation
- Town of Kiawah
- The Progressive Club
The late Abe Jenkins also served on the steering committee as a community member and representative of The Progressive Club. Samantha Siegel, founder of Save the Angel Oak, is the project manager for the Lowcountry Land Trust, and additional guidance is being provided by Lowcountry Land Trust’s staff and board.
The Angel Oak Effect is a community effort as represented by the more than 12,000 donations secured to acquire the property after it was approved for residential development in 2008. The extensive community collaboration continues to serve as a model for other state and national land protection efforts.
“We are humbled and honored to have been trusted as the stewards of the forest that protects, shields, and sustains the Angel Oak, as well as the community that has loved it for centuries,” remarks Demosthenes. “We endeavor to continue to be worthy of that trust as we take these early steps into the conception of this preserve. It is a reminder to all of us not only of the value of open land on the Sea Islands, but to the strength the community has when it chooses to fight for the special places it treasures.”
Lowcountry Land Trust will continue gathering community input, provide on-site comment opportunities, take feedback from conceptual designs, and incorporate it into the final plan. Visit https://lowcountrylandtrust.org/angel-oak-preserve/ for more information and to sign up to get more involved.
Want to learn more about Nelson Byrd Woltz? Check out their website here and also, check out Thomas Woltz’s inspiring Ted Talk, From landscape architecture to conservation agriculture.
Jen Howard, Steward Terra Communications
In 2008, Charleston City Council approved a massive, planned unit development with over 600 apartments, townhomes and retail space. Local activist Samantha Siegel took a stand and started a movement to save the Angel Oak and its surrounding land from the impending development. Along the way, she partnered with many conservation organizations, most notably the Coastal Conservation League and the South Carolina Environmental Law Project. The community rallied in opposition to the development for over 5 years fighting every local and state permit needed to develop the land.
People from all walks of life—people that didn’t normally work together, joined together and fought for many years to protect the Angel Oak and its surrounding native forest.
The race to save the Angel Oak is novel-worthy. It is complex, multi-layered, and could fill pages upon pages with credit and thanks to all the individuals, non-profits, businesses, and elected officials who worked creatively to undo a pending disaster for Johns Island and its generations of families and residents.
About Lowcountry Land Trust
Founded in 1986, the Lowcountry Land Trust is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with the mission to protect land and water forever, nurture the relationship between people and place, and connect community to conservation. Lowcountry Land Trust has protected over 150,000 acres across 17 counties in South Carolina. In January 2022, LLT merged with East Cooper Land Trust adding the strength of its community centered conservation programs and easements to its portfolio.