Story originally published by The State Newspaper on August 5, 2023 By Sammy Fretwell
Bluffs overlooking Congaree National Park are being protected from development as part of a deal that will preserve 400 acres in Calhoun County just south of the 27,000-acre park, according to a state agency and two conservation organizations. The bluffs, which rise up to 200 feet above the Congaree River, provide sweeping views of the national park, a low-lying flood plain and forest southeast of Columbia. The high bluffs are not common in the area because central South Carolina is mostly flat. Audubon South Carolina acquired the property and will provide public tours of the newly protected land, officials said Friday. The full sales price was not available, but the state Conservation Bank kicked in $400,000 for the protection effort. A local family, the Arants, sold the property.
Audubon’s new nature preserve adds nearly a mile of protected frontage along the river and is close to the state-owned Congaree Bluffs Heritage Preserve. Except for one sliver of property between the two preserves, about 1.25 miles of riverfront is protected from development across from Congaree National Park, more than 20 miles southeast of Columbia. ““The Arant tract is not only stunning, but it is also one of the highest priority parcels for conservation in the area,” according to a statement from Rebecca Haynes, director of Audubon South Carolina. Audubon, the state Conservation Bank and Ducks Unlimited announced the acquisition Friday. Audubon’s land is the first parcel of what is expected to be a larger nature preserve the organization plans along the Congaree River. The group eventually expects to acquire another 400 acres from a long-time property owner, as well as another tract, said Audubon’s Tim Evans.
Evans said protecting the property is important because it keeps the land out of developers’ hands. The land is attractive for development because of the view of Congaree National Park, he said. At one point in the past, some of the property in the area was slated to be subdivided and developed. The land includes a mix of forests and old farmland with a variety of species, including plants that are more typically found in South Carolina’s foothills and mountains near Greenville, according to Audubon. Those include certain types of azaleas, sparkleberry plants and short-leaf pines. Water that seeps through the bluffs is prime habitat for amphibians and reptiles, Evans said. Audubon plans to restore longleaf pine trees, mixed hardwoods and shortleaf pine forests on the now overgrown agricultural part of the land.
According to Friday’s news release, the acquisition occurred with the help of Ducks Unlimited and Friends of Congaree Swamp. Though Audubon will own the land, the property has an extra layer of protection. A conservation easement, a type of no-development agreement, also was included in the sale. That ensures that if Audubon ever wanted to sell it, the new owners could not develop the property, officials said. Kam Arant said the sale of the land for protection is something her late husband and late brother-in-law wanted. She said she was glad to finally accommodate their wishes. “This was their long-time dream,’’ she said.
Visits to the site will by appointment only because the new Audubon preserve does not have full-time staff on the property. Those interested in tours should contact Evans at 601-218-8145 or by email email@example.com.
Written by Sammy Fretwell Original Article: https://www.thestate.com/news/local/environment/article277961633.html