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South Carolina

Improving Access at Sandy Island Preserve

About Sandy Island Preserve

For more than 15 years, The Nature Conservancy of South Carolina has been managing one of the state’s most unique natural assets, the 9,000-acre Sandy Island Preserve, nestled between the Waccamaw and Great Pee Dee Rivers in Georgetown County. In January 2011, the Conservancy became both owner and manager of the Preserve when the South Carolina Department of Transportation transferred their ownership interest.

As the largest protected freshwater island on the eastern seaboard—nearly 15 times as large as New York’s Central Park— Sandy Island is a haven for wildlife and regional history and culture. Its pristine wooded bluffs, ancient cypress stands, longleaf pine forests, freshwater wetlands and blackwater and alluvial rivers provide rich wildlife habitat for resident eagles, osprey, bear, deer, turkey and a small community of villagers, who travel to-and-from their island home by boat. 

Improving Access

While researchers and outdoor enthusiasts have long been drawn to Sandy Island’s enchantingly undisturbed habitats, the island has not been easy for the public to navigate, with scarce visitor infrastructure. But The Nature Conservancy of South Carolina was recently awarded a grant from the Frances P. Bunnelle Foundation to change that.

Sandy Island Preserve offers unparalleled opportunities for nature-based tourism in Georgetown County, and the Conservancy is excited to enhance recreational access while also maintaining the ecological integrity of the island’s natural communities.

The Conservancy is using the $16,800 grant to fund enhancements to interpretive materials, public use infrastructure and safety planning and signage on the Preserve.

The Conservancy has created a Sandy Island Preserve guide and trail map and three new informational kiosks at major public entry points. A new 2-mile hiking loop on the southern end includes trail signs interpreting the islands abundant plants and wildlife. 

“Sandy Island is a hidden gem in Winyah Bay, and we look forward to making it easier and safer for people to explore the island and appreciate its remarkable habitats and wildlife,” says Colette DeGarady, senior ecologist for the South Carolina Chapter. “These public access enhancements are an example of The Nature Conservancy’s commitment to connecting communities with their natural areas.”

Written by Stephanie Hunt

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