April 19, 2015

State legislators OK Boeing land donation

 

Map showing locations of new properties financed by Boeing (Image: Lowcountry Open Land Trust)

Map showing locations of new properties financed by Boeing (Image: Lowcountry Open Land Trust) Click on map to see closer view

A panel of South Carolina legislators have given their approval to Boeing’s proposed donation of nearly 1,700 acres for a new state preserve in Berkeley County.

The Joint Bond Review Committee on Monday unanimously advanced the donation of the “Keystone” tract. The wooded 1,677-acre property, also known as Quenby Barony, is located on the edge of Francis Marion National Forest just south of the Huger community. The Budget & Control Board still needs to give its okay on the deal.

Boeing announced last month that it would finance the property’s sale and eventual donation to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. The Quenby Barony property was part of more than 4,000 acres the company helped preserve as a condition for expanding its North Charleston assembly plant.

Boeing hopes to eventually develop over 400 acres of land near the Charleston airport that includes 153 acres of federally protected wetlands.  In order to get the permission to develop on that property, Boeing had to compensate by purchasing other land for conservation. The Army Corps of Engineers approved the mitigation plan last month.

The Lowcountry Open Land Trust (LOLT) purchased the Quenby Barony for $6.7 million with the aerospace company’s financial help. The conservation nonprofit said the deal will help further preserve the Cooper River basin.

“This Cooper River Corridor is a high priority for conservation,” LOLT director of conservation Ashley Demosthenes told South Carolina Radio Network. “It has tremendous ecological, historical, and cultural value.”

She said the tract is former timberland owned by International Paper that was sold to a developer in the mid-2000s. However, the developer’s plans failed to materialize.

DNR officials hops to eventually turn the site into a heritage preserve open to the public for hunting, hiking, and wildlife viewing, according to documents filed with the committee.

Even if the Budget & Control Board approves the deal, it will still be a few more years before the site opens to the public. Demosthenes said conservationists are working to restore native longleaf pine trees to the property, gradually thinning out and replacing the more timber-friendly loblolly pines that were planted by International Paper. She estimated it will take another two or three years before the property is turned over to DNR.