For Greenville landscape architect Holley Owings, there was almost an inevitability to how well plans for the state’s first new park in nearly 20 years came together as part of the new Black River Initiative.
“It’s really cool to be part of a project where so many things fell into place,” Owings says.
She’s speaking about the Black River Water Trail and Park Network Master Plan that sprang from a massive collaboration between community stakeholders, conservation groups, property owners and state agencies to develop a 70-mile-long network of public and private parks along the Black River in Williamsburg and Georgetown counties in South Carolina.
Owings and her Greenville-based firm, Earth Design, served as lead consultant in developing the plan. For her, the project is special, in part, because so many things came together behind the scenes to help make it possible.
Because the new park corridor will connect the town of Kingstree in Williamsburg County to Georgetown on the coast and encompasses thousands of acres of crucial wetlands habitat, the conservation and economic development impact are expected to be significant.
Paul McCormack, director of S.C. State Parks, says the state’s first riverine park is important because it’s coming to a part of the state he describes as a “state park desert.” The park corridor will also give visitors a unique experience in a part of the state that has remained largely untouched by development.
“To paddle in that river is kind of a chance to paddle back in time,” McCormack says.
Totaling approximately 9,000 acres, the park network will wind through two counties, extending 70 miles from the town of Kingstree almost to the confluence of the Black River with the Pee Dee River, just north of Georgetown. It is surrounded by another 16,000 acres of private land protected by conservation easements.
McCormack and Owings say protecting so much land is important to securing crucial habitat for wildlife and maintaining an ecosystem that is crucial to flood mitigation in that part of the state.
Some key partners in the Black River Initiative:
- Open Space Institute.
- The Nature Conservancy.
- S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.
- Winyah Rivers Alliance.
- Williamsburg and Georgetown counties.
- The towns of Andrews, Kingstree and Georgetown.
- S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
- Black Scenic River Advisory Council.
- Waccamaw Council of Governments.