The Open Land Trust has a deep and steadfast commitment to the protection of St. Helena Island, the last relatively undeveloped Sea Island in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. In the heart of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, the 50-acre Historic District on St. Helena Island is home to Penn Center, one of the most significant African American historical and cultural institutions in existence and also the newly-designated Reconstruction Era National Historical Park. St. Helena remains relatively rural, defined by large blocks of historically active working lands in local agricultural food and timber production.
Zoning cannot address the multitude of pressures that St. Helena residents face as they try to maintain ownership of their family property and the integrity of their community. Rising property taxes, heirs’ property ownership, increased sand mining and strong development pressure from out-of-state buyers puts multi-generational family properties at risk. Currently Bay Point Island, a barrier island just 1½
miles from the southern end of St. Helena Island is facing the threat of a resort development, epitomizing the strong and oftentimes senseless development pressure on this rural community.
Currently we protect 1,604 acres of farmland, timberland, rural recreational property and historic sites on St. Helena Island. We are continually working on community conservation projects and land protection opportunities to provide permanent stability of land uses. Buffering the Island’s rich historic resources from urban encroachment furthers the protection of the unique and threatened cultural resources of the Gullah Geechee culture of the South Carolina Sea Islands, the area’s rural character and the farming heritage of St. Helena Island.