Angel Oak saved from development

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - It's a sigh of relief for members of the Save Angel Oak nonprofit, relief they've been waiting six years for in the fight to protect the historic Johns Island oak tree.

On Thursday, The Lowcountry Open Land Trust announced they had met their fundraising goal to purchase the remaining 18 acres surrounding Angel Oak.

This marks the end of potential plans to develop the area.

At one time, developers wanted to build at least 600 apartments plus retail space on the rural site.

Since then, Save Angel Oak fought to buy the land themselves and protect it. Activists say preserving the wetlands around the giant oak tree was vital to keeping the tree alive.

"The wetlands are on this area and that's the single most important thing for the health of the Angel Oak -- that's how it has been for some 1,400 years," Save Angel Oak nonprofit founder, Samantha Siegal said. "If you cut down a tree, even a mile away, you can risk hurting a limb on the Angel Oak. For something that precious to South Carolina you don't even want to risk risking it."

With the Lowcountry Open Land Trust, the property is now in the hands of preservationist who vow they will keep the area away from development and alive for generations to come.

"Every single person who visits that tree has one of those 'ah ha' moments where they feel, 'Wow I am so small and it is so big,'" Siegal said. "Especially children, they just take off running when they get there. It's the energy of the place -- it is just such a sacred place."

Lowcountry Open Land Trust closed on the property at 10 a.m. Friday.

"More than 12,000 schools, businesses and people stepped forward to make this project a possibility raising nearly $7 million," said Adrian Cain, Director of Development for the Lowcountry Open Land Trust. "It really speaks to the importance of the Angel Oak and John's Island."

Cain says he is thankful for everyone's support, but the real work is just beginning.

"We need them to stay engaged stay involved and to really help us craft the future of this preserve," said Cain.

Its branches, stretch as far back as Jeanie Kinler can remember.

"It's part of our history," said Jeani Kinler who was visiting the historic site. "I grew up here, I was able to climb it as a kid, it's an icon of Charleston."

Cain says the goal, is to keep the historic site apart of the fabric of the Lowcountry, so that the Angel Oak Tree can continue to be a part of people like Jeani Kinler's, family tree.

"As much as we are for development and housing," said Kinler, who also donated to save the site. "It was important that these things that were part of the reason that we are here remain and be available to our children and grandchildren and others that come and visit."

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