Lowcountry Lowdown

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By Lolita Huckaby

Happy birthday to the OLT

Beaufort – The Beaufort County Open Land Trust celebrated its 50th anniversary last weekend on the bluff of the Bay Street, where its mission began.

As the state’s first land trust program, the OLT was the brain child of three friends concerned about the changing face of the Lowcountry as development threatened more and more open spaces, vistas that make the area the natural jewel it is.

Betty Logan Waskiewicz, John Trask Jr. and the late Marguerite Waterhouse Broz joined forces, brought their friends and other concerned citizens into the effort and purchased a home site on the bluff to protect the open view of the Beaufort River and marshes for all to enjoy.

A working relationship with Beaufort County, through the Rural and Critical Lands Preservation Program, has enabled the preservation and protection of more than 25,000 acres of land throughout the county and neighboring counties. Most recently, OLT partnered with the county to create the Widgeon Point Preserve on S.C. 170 and the Broad and Chechessee Rivers.

The nonprofit’s staff and volunteers were instrumental in the fight against proposed development of Bay Point Island, a project still in litigation as the developers protest the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals rejection. They helped negotiate an agreement with the developers of Whitehall on Lady’s Island for reduced construction.

Since 1968, the Trust has worked with movie producer Joel Silver, owner of Auldbrass Plantation near Yemassee, in an agreement that preserves the Frank Lloyd Wright designed plantation buildings and makes them open for ticketed tours every two years as a fundraising effort to support the OLT projects. As another fundraiser, the Trust’s popular SEA ISLAND SEASONS cookbook remains in print since 1980.

The list of accomplishments goes on and on and hopefully will for another 50 years.

Citizens have spoken – playgrounds for Southside Park

BEAUFORT – Speaking of parks and open spaces, the Beaufort City Council now has a detailed wish list for the popular Southside Park. The key is going to be how to pay for it.

A citizen’s task force which has been working since the beginning of the year reported their findings last week to the City Council. And while the report carried no price tag, city officials have already said they may be grants to support the improvements.

Structured playgrounds made the top of the list but the 1,171 survey respondents also gave high priority to improved walking trails and the dog park, event pavilions and enhanced wetlands on the property. Also making the list was a splash pad, water foundations, restrooms and soccer fields.

Requests for pickleball courts were a priority for some and will be one of several items shared with the county since the county and city work together on some athletic parks.

What happens next with the park’s development will be dictated by the upcoming annual budget talks.

Masks off?

BEAUFORT – The towns of Hilton Head Island and Yemassee – plus the public schools – are the only remaining entities in the county with a mask mandate, for now.

Beaufort City Council last week voted unanimously to not continue the mask wearing mandate although the replacement ordinance “encourages” citizens to wearing them. The vote came against recommendations from the CEO of Beaufort Memorial Hospital and the head of S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Controlm who happens to be a resident of the city.

The council follows Port Royal, Bluffton and the county. Masks are still required in courtrooms, per order of the state Chief Justice.

The majority of Beaufort County Council two weeks ago wanted to extend the mask ordinance but because a “super majority” of eight votes was needed to do so, and only seven of the 11 were in agreement, the effort to extend failed and the mask ordinance went away.

Hilton Head’s ordinance is set to expire May 16. Yemassee’s ordinance, May 9.

To date, there have been no reports of tickets written or fines imposed for any violations.

Lolita Huckaby Watson is a community volunteer and former reporter/editor with The Beaufort Gazette, The Savannah Morning News, Bluffton Today, Beaufort Today and The Robesonia (Lumberton, NC). She can be reached at bftbay@gmail.com.