It’s encouraging the owners of a 4,600-acre marsh island between Folly and James islands want to find a buyer who will put it under a conservation easement. Ideally, the owners would do it themselves.
With no road access, only about 140 acres of high ground and an asking price of $15 million, Long Island is indeed exclusive — too pricey for most individual buyers or conservation groups, too inaccessible and, so far, undevelopable.
But the island does have historic and ecological value. It contains the ruins of two Union Army forts: an earthworks “Star Battery” on the west end and a less well-preserved fort, as well as the remains of a field hospital and POW camp, farther to the east, said Doug Bostick of the S.C. Battleground Preservation Trust, which holds a 4.8-acre conservation easement on Star Battery.
We ought to preserve it,” he said, adding that Long Island was almost certainly occupied by Native Americans and is one of the few pristine and ecologically sensitive marsh islands left in the area.
The island might make a nice limited-access park or camp, or serve as a research site for environmentalists or archaeologists. Simply as greenspace, the well-forested island serves as a hurricane buffer for James Island.
Even though previous attempts to develop the island failed, the owners paid about $7.5 million for the land in 2005 with an eye toward building on it or selling it for development. At one point in 2014, it was listed for $29 million, but no buyers emerged, and development plans came to a halt when environmental regulators correctly refused to allow an access bridge across Folly Creek from Pea Island.
Access is the main stumbling block to development, so what the market will bear is anyone’s guess.
Long Island falls under the jurisdiction of the city of Folly Beach, which has proposed restricting the development of marsh islands to 30 percent of high ground. The top conservation officer for the Lowcountry Open Land Trust told The Post and Courier he had seen an independent appraisal for Long Island far lower than the $15 million asking price.
Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin said his city would happily accept Long Island into the Folly Beach Nature Conservancy in exchange for a tax write-off. The Coastal Conservation League also hopes to see the island conserved. As a matter of policy, the conservation league wisely does not support building bridges to undeveloped marsh islands and would oppose any effort to do that.
The state might be interested in buying Long Island for a limited-use park. It’s similar to the island on Port Royal Sound that Ted Turner sold to the state last year. St. Phillips Island is now managed by S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism and under an agreement that limits development.
As David Ray of the Lowcountry Open Land Trust told The Post and Courier, Long Island is “a desirable place for conservation to happen. … Every deal requires a meeting of the minds, and that’s the challenge here, I think.”
He’s right, of course. Certainly, the owners have every right to try to recoup their investment, and the right conservation deal might enable them to do that. They have already been generous by underwriting the easement around the fort. But the only way to guarantee the island is protected is for the owners to directly seek a conservation deal before the title to the land changes hands. (Credit: Post and Courier)
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