The mission of Winyah Rivers is to protect, preserve, monitor and revitalize the health of the lands and waters of the greater Winyah Bay watershed and we take that mission very seriously. Since Winyah Rivers was formed, we have worked with land conservation partners throughout our greater Winyah Bay watershed.
In 2015, a major change occurred within our organization when we partnered with The Nature Conservancy of South Carolina and others to acquire property for conservation on the Black River in Georgetown County. This resulted in Winyah Rivers becoming a landowner for the first time. This led to an updated strategic plan, developed in 2016 with the support of the Waccamaw Community Foundation, that included strategies to direct our activities with respect to land conservation:
"Assessment of our land conservation strategies/ efforts. In light of 2015 purchase of Rocky Point Community Forest and upcoming acquisition of the Singleton Tract special attention needs to be given to this aspect of our programming."
And the following Action Steps:
- Evaluate WRF’s position on incorporating land acquisition into the strategy including budget, time frame, and resources.
- Continue to explore resources to support our existing land conservation efforts including Rocky Point, Singleton, and land conservation advisory partnerships such as the Upper Waccamaw Task Force and source water protection efforts.
As a result, and with the support of the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, we hired a land conservation consultant to evaluate and make recommendations regarding our land conservation strategy. We recognized that, as a land owner and with a growing need for protecting lands important for conservation and/or for river access, we needed to evaluate the role Winyah Rivers can assume in ongoing land conservation and ownership.
With the help of consultant Charles Roe and our Strategic Planning Committee, WRF's Board of Directors voted in favor of the following:
- Adoption of Land Trust Standards and Practices as guiding principles for WRF to assure responsible, effective governance and operation of our organization (Land Trust Standards and Practices are the ethical and technical guidelines for the responsible operation of a land trust. The Land Trust Alliance drafted the first Standards in 1989 at the urging of land trusts and to affirm certain best practices as the surest way to secure lasting conservation. To maintain the land trust community’s strength, credibility and effectiveness, the Standards were updated in 1993, 2001 and 2004, and now again in 2017, Ref: www.landtrustalliance.org);
- To consider additional land acquisitions where that land is determined to be critically important for protection of clean water, natural resources conservation, and water-based public recreation and education (note: WRF will not hold conservation easements deed restrictions but will instead rely on other conventional land trusts and conservancies to arrange, manage and enforce such conservation management agreements on private properties);
- Adoption of policies and procedures for acquiring ownership title to other land properties in the future, and associated evaluation and selection criteria for determining whether to undertake such land acquisitions (see Winyah Rivers Foundation, Inc. Land Acquisition Guidelines, Policies and Procedures).
We will continue to collaborate with our conservation partners and, where a need is identified, we will evaluate future land acquisitions using a specific set of evaluation and selection procedures and criteria to fulfill a land conservation niche not provided by other land trusts working in our region. Those procedures and criteria are currently under development and are expected to be finalized and adopted shortly.
Current Land Conservation Efforts
In the South Carolina portion of our watershed, we are supported in our land conservation efforts by the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation.
With its support, we work collaboratively with partners focused on identifying and protecting land parcels that have high conservation values and lead to landscape-scale land preservation and stewardship.
Our conservation initiatives include:
- Working with partners including American Rivers and Pee Dee Land Trust, among others, to establish the Waccamaw River Blue Trail in South Carolina, recognized by the US Department of the Interior and the National Park Service as a National Water Trail.
- In late 2017, Winyah Rivers took ownership of the Singleton property, a 116 acre property bordering the Waccamaw River in the Cox Ferry area, with future plans to convey the property to a government agency for longterm conservation.
- In late 2015, Winyah Rivers took ownership of Rocky Point, a 462 acre property located on the Black River near Choppee, SC. The property is in the process of being developed into coastal South Carolina's first public use community forest and many of its historically popular features will return, including hiking and biking trails and a boat launch. Stay up to date about Rocky Point here.
- Through our Upper Waccamaw Task Force, we collaborate with governmental and non-governmental agencies to focus on high priority conservation properties in the Waccamaw watershed in Horry County.
- We provide technical support to partners working on source water protection planning, protecting our drinking water sources to sustain safe drinking water supplies.
In North Carolina, we partner with the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy of North Carolina, among others, with a focus on the North Carolina portion of the Waccamaw watershed. Successes include:
- The acquisition of Cove Swamp, a 441 acre tract of forested wetland that is now part of Lake Waccamaw State Park.
- Transfer of a 197 acre parcel, a portion of a 670 acre parcel that the Coastal Land Trust purchased in 2014 and featuring almost 1.5 miles of wooded frontage along the Waccamaw River, to Lake Waccamaw State Park.
- Ongoing support to our conservation partners to prioritize and acquire high value conservation lands to protect the unique and wonderful Waccamaw River watershed.