Travel along the meandering Conch Creek into the silent heart of the surrounding salt marsh, and there is no telling what impressions nature will reveal to you: the sunrise reflection through the salt myrtle, the guttural roll of a boat-tailed grackle in the morning, an ambrosial tang of pluff mud in the nostrils, or squadrons of dowitchers nesting in the cordgrass. While experiencing the untouched beauty of this land may seem rare, if Ben Sawyer Boulevard is part of your commute, you pass it by every day.
This biodiverse landscape is located north of the Intracoastal Waterway between Ben Sawyer Boulevard and Conch Creek, and it was recently acquired by the East Cooper Land Trust.
East Cooper Land Trust purchased the 398-acre site on Nov. 15 using funds from the North American Wetland Conservation Act. “In a time where so many people are concerned with conservation,” said ECLT board member Sarah Hays, “we are thrilled that this acquisition project doubles our conserved property acreage.”
The property consists of salt marsh estuarine emergent wetland habitat and associated upland islands within the CAWS Waterfowl Focus area and along the Intracoastal Waterway. It currently provides habitat for breeding, migration, and wintering migratory birds in the coastal zone in South Carolina. Salt marsh is ranked as one of the most biologically productive ecosystems on earth, providing nursery grounds for many species of birds and fish, as well as vital wildlife habitat.
After visiting the site earlier this month, East Cooper Land Trust director Catherine Main commented on the property’s location, “It was striking to see the contrast between this seemingly pristine wildlife habitat and the surrounding urban environment in Mount Pleasant and Sullivan’s Island.” The trust’s stewardship of the property will help ensure the quality of the bird and fish habitat as human infrastructure continues to be built along the surrounding highland. The conservation effort will also maintain the integrity of the wetlands, which help mitigate potential flooding and protect water quality in the area by absorbing sediment runoff.
East Cooper Land Trust’s ownership of the property opens the potential for public benefit along the blueway for kayakers and collaborative educational programs. Another long-term option includes the installation and maintenance of a living shoreline oyster reef and restoration to a more natural state.
“This purchase will help ensure the preservation of the rural character of our coastal community,” Ms. Main said, “which is one of the primary goals of the East Cooper Land Trust.”