In late July, the conservation nonprofit announced a $3.6 million fundraising campaign to help secure 17 acres of land adjacent to the beloved Angel Oak and a city park immediately surrounding the tree. Zoned for hundreds of private apartment units and commercial development, the acreage had fallen into foreclosure. With $2.4 million in public commitments in hand, the Trust was given until September 30 to raise $1.2 million to complete the deal.
Within eight weeks, effort organizers witnessed unprecedented community support for the effort. Other nonprofits, area townships, local farmers and artisans, a locally-owned grocery store, community associations, school children and thousands of individuals nationwide have made contributions; to date, more than 9,000 individuals have donated nearly $700,000 to the cause.
The Land Trust is confident that they will meet the goal; and they hope to have a chance to do it again.
“The community not only stepped up to help in extraordinary ways, but they have also asked us to keep going,” said Elizabeth Hagood, LOLT Executive Director. “As a result, we are extending this effort to November 21, in order to secure additional funds that could help us purchase a neighboring, 17 acre development tract.”
Like the first tract, the development parcel is currently a rural landscape and forested wetland. Its trees shelter the Angel Oak above ground, and share a complex root system below. And, just as with the first tract, it is zoned for intense development and could eventually house hundreds of multi-family units.
Historians have long studied the Angel Oak’s role in the community’s spiritual and social lives. It has played a part in desegregation and civil rights movements, been the locus of weddings and engagements, and today attracts thousands each year to explore its beauty.
“The Angel Oak has united this community for centuries,” said Hagood. “And once again, the tree’s magnificent appeal has brought thousands together. The success of this entire, 34-acre campaign will prove that caring people can move mountains when they come together for a cause.”