When Willie McRae moved to Boone Hall Plantation, he was a toddler, barely walking. In 1956, his mother opened the property, which she described as “the most beautiful place in the world,” to tourists.
Over the years since, many of us developed a deeply personal relationship with Boone Hall. It means to many of us in the Lowcountry tasting our first strawberry, picking our first pumpkin, or shucking our first oyster. For others, Boone Hall is a wedding memory or glance backward into history. It truly felt like it would be the same forever.
That’s the way it goes with many of our Lowcountry landscapes. “We thought it would stay that way forever…” until the rezoning notice is posted, the rights of way are cleared, or survey lines are marked. And then it’s too late.
Because of Willie McRae and his family, it will never be “too late” for Boone Hall. On November 5th, they signed a conservation agreement with Lowcountry Land Trust that ensures Boone Hall’s natural and historical features will be protected forever and will never be developed.
In announcing its permanent protection, Willie called Boone Hall a “magical, mystical place,” and it was clear by the glistening eyes of those in attendance that day that he’s not the only one who feels the magic.
With overwhelming public support for protection, it’s easy to think that completing the conservation easement was a “given.” That assumption couldn’t be farther from the truth. A conservation easement is a complex real estate transaction. It begins with trust, as an easement will cement a relationship forever. Title searches, surveys, inspections, and many other steps can then span many months, even years.
In the end, the landowner is making a decision for his or her property that transcends generations and ownership. When a conservation easement is closed, property is protected forever; until that moment, it remains vulnerable. Then, Lowcountry Land Trust staff begin their journey as forever stewards of the land.
Willie McRae and his family had a vision for their property. They invited our team to the table to share their vision and Lowcountry Land Trust provided the expertise to craft an agreement that met the family’s needs. What isn’t front-page news are the hours spent creating baseline surveys and documentation of the property’s features, the creative thinking by our staff to offer a diversity of conservation options for this iconic place, or the stewardship of this property forever.
Donors like you ensure that we have the capacity to act swiftly when conservation opportunities arise, the experience to generate innovative solutions that are wins-wins for landowners and the larger community, and the staff to ensure land is protected in perpetuity.
Thank you for all you do to protect Lowcountry land and water forever!