Centuries-old tree gets a new lease on life

Native Americans once used the tree as a ceremonial meeting place. The land surrounding the tree has also been a plantation, a freedman’s village and a place where Johns Islanders, including Civil Rights activist Septima P. Clark, could rest under the shade.

By Kirsten Ferguson January 20

The magnificent tree known as Angel Oak in South Carolina’s Lowcountry region is estimated to be centuries old. Native Americans once used the tree as a ceremonial meeting place. The land surrounding the tree has also been a plantation, a freedman’s village and a place where Johns Islanders, including Civil Rights activist Septima P. Clark, could rest under the shade.

More than a decade ago, the accredited Lowcountry Land Trust partnered with nonprofits, public entities and community members to protect the tree and its ecosystem. The land trust named its Angel Oak Effect program after a grassroots effort that rallied, raised donations and saved the tree after the surrounding land was approved for development.

Now, Lowcountry Land Trust has moved into a new phase: a planning process for the Angel Oak Preserve, a 35-acre property surrounding the city’s 9-acre Angel Oak Park and the iconic oak.

The land trust selected landscape architecture firm Nelson Byrd Woltz of Charlottesville, Virginia, to design a publicly accessible green space that honors the rural and cultural context of the land. The process launched this summer and will include public meetings, surveys and stakeholder interviews with a completed design in 2023.

“We look forward to working with the community to bring this special place to life in a way that honors its history and its important role in today’s growing landscape,” says Ashley Demosthenes, Lowcountry Land Trust president and CEO.