By Jennifer Woody for The Island Connection
In just one year the Kiawah Conservancy has more than tripled its conservation footprint from 348 acres to 1097 acres and added 10 new conservation properties. In August of 2017, the Kiawah Conservancy was presented with a unique opportunity. The Kiawah Island Community Association and Kiawah Partners were considering a trade for properties they owned on the Island. The Conservancy recognized a unique opportunity to preserve the Island’s entrance and additional properties and approached KICA and KP with a proposal to include four additional properties for conservation. These properties, which were high on the Conservancy’s priority conservation list included: high land at the entrance to Kiawah Island (Mingo North and South), 700 acres of marshland and hummock islands between Kiawah’s entrance and Rhett’s Bluff, a Bass Creek hummock island, and a Bass Creek Nature Area. In addition, an option to purchase a fifth property at the entrance to Kiawah (Little Rabbit North) from KP for a bargain sale of $1 million would be offered to the Conservancy once the land trade had been approved. And so the efforts began. In September, the community voted and a resounding 87% of voters agreed to approve the trade.
That was great news, but there was no time to celebrate. In order to complete preservation of Kiawah’s entrance, the Conservancy still needed to raise $1 million to purchase Little Rabbit North. The fundraising began with the Conservancy’s Trustees, who were all challenged to make a donation to meet the $1 million goal. After achieving 100% Trustee participation, the Conservancy approached the Shipley Foundation, Inc., and received a $400,000 matching grant challenge that required raising an additional $400,000 from the Kiawah community. The community enthusiastically responded and on Dec. 13, the Conservancy was delighted to announce that it had raised $1,313,262 (in restricted and unrestricted donations).
With this tremendous Kiawah community success, the closing for Little Rabbit North is anticipated in March 2018. In addition to the four properties preserved through the community vote, six more properties were preserved by the Kiawah Conservancy in 2017: 12 Grey Widgeon Dr., 114 Halona Ln., 118 Halona Ln., 120 Halona Ln., 136 Halona Ln. and 140 Halona Ln. “Our success in preserving this habitat, which is critical for sustaining the wildlife that attracted us all to Kiawah, is a tribute to the dedication and vision of Kiawah Island residents and their commitment to conservation,” commented Richard Ames, Chair of the Kiawah Conservancy. What a year it has been for conservation! The Kiawah Conservancy has run an amazing race, but it cannot stop now. Kiawah Island offers a bounty of environmentally unique habitats and wildlife. From a thriving maritime forest filled with live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, to tidal marshes filled with hummock islands and estuaries flowing to the ocean, to pristine dunes and beaches cherished by all who encounter them – Kiawah Island is a place for people and wildlife to co-exist. It is this unique balance of nature and development that the Kiawah Conservancy is committed to preserving.