Johns Island - The Lowcountry Open Land Trust has raised $3.3 million to purchase and preserve the last piece of land near the historic Angel Oak tree that was set to be developed.
Rutledge Young Jr., president of the trust's board, said the group will close Friday on the 18.7-acre property adjacent to Angel Oak Park.
Many groups and individuals contributed to the purchase, he said. The largest contribution was $2.5 million from Charleston County's Greenbelt Program.
Charleston County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor said he was pleased to learn that the trust had raised the rest of the money. "This is huge," he said. "This means that our grandkids and great-great grands can visit a tree that's been around forever."
Approving the money for the tree was easy, Pryor said, "because it was the right thing to do."
The city of Charleston contributed $400,000, and the trust tapped other donors to bring in the final $400,000.
The trust has about $336,000 on hand, Young said, and two anonymous donors have committed to contributing whatever is needed to hit the $400,000 mark.
Conservationists have said they want the land around the tree protected from intense development to maintain the health of the massive live oak, which is believed to be at least several centuries old. It has become a Lowcountry icon.
Young said raising the money for the 18.7-acre parcel, as well as raising $3.4 million last year for a 17-acre parcel adjacent to the park, were community efforts. Those efforts, he said, were spearheaded by Samantha Siegel and members of her group Save the Angel Oak. "She's the one who fired the whole thing up, who stood in front of the bulldozers."
Siegel said learning that the trust had raised the money was "the best news I've ever heard in my life." She has devoted the last six years of her life to preserving the tree, she said. "It's amazing to see what the community can do when we work together."
Young said trust staff members already are thinking about how best to use the 35 acres for educational activities related to the tree and to conservation. And they will gather a lot of public input on that.
The trust turned to the community when it needed money to purchase the land, he said. It also will turn to the community to figure out how to best use it.
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.