Community celebrates preservation of land around Angel Oak

Angel Oak preservation

JOHNS ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - Dozens of Lowcountry leaders and residents celebrated the preservation of an area surrounding one very historic landmark on Johns Island Thursday.

Lowcountry Open Land Trust announced they now officially own the 17 acres adjacent to Angel Oak Park.

"This place, every citizens owns," said Charleston Mayor Joe Riley. "It belongs to you, a natural, inherited part of your citizenship."

In just over eight months, the non-profit organization was able to raise the $3.6 million needed to purchase the land. They had a lot of help.

"County Greenbelt and Charleston County Council provided us the initial $2.4 million that got us launched, that left $1.2 million for the rest of the community to raise," said Elizabeth Hagood, Executive Director of Open Land Trust.

More than 10,000 community members raised the rest of the funds to buy 17 acres and protect it from being developed. That's including students for Haut Gap Elementary, who donated money after selling vegetables from their school garden.

"The primary reason is the health of the tree," said Hagood. "A tree as grand as this has an amazing, intricate, large root system and what happens around it for acres around it impacts it."

It's one of the oldest live oak trees in the country, and to many, the Angel Oak tree holds a special meaning.

"It's a tree of life, it's a spiritual tree to many people," said Hagood.

"When I first moved to Charleston 45 years ago, it was something spectacular to see," said Jan MacDougal, local resident. "Through the years, my children have romped around and even climbed the limbs and my youngest son was married here."

Hagood says that Thursday's celebration is just the beginning of a new chapter. Now, organizers decide what they want to eventually do with the land.

Talks of a community park are being discussed.

"We want to have a strong educational component so children can come out and families and learn about the tree," said Hagood.

For now, it will remain as is, safe. A place for the community to enjoy for years to come.

"I think they're going to think the same thing that generations in the past have thought - that it is just magnificent," said MacDougal.

If you want to keep up with the Lowcountry Open Land Trust's effort for the Angel Oak preservation, you can check out their website.