Comment: Honor and Protect the Gateway to Historic Ashley River | Remark

The Ashley River Historic District is one of the most significant landscapes in the state of South Carolina. Spanning over 23,000 acres in Charleston and Dorchester counties, 13,000 of which have been permanently protected by private landowners, the district represents a layered cultural and ecological heritage from its colonial beginnings to the 17th century until the middle of the 20th century.

Few places in the state offer such a comprehensive opportunity to understand the breadth and complexity of South Carolina’s history and evolution.

Conservation and preservation organizations have worked with the citizens of the Lowcountry for over 50 years to protect this irreplaceable landscape. The Ashley River Historic District was twice included on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of most endangered historic places in the United States, first in 1995 and again in 2018.

Today, as our region continues to experience one of the fastest growing areas in the country, the threat to the Ashley River Historic District and the Ashley River as a whole is perhaps more serious than ever.

One of the most pressing issues is the responsible development of Cooks Crossroads, located in Dorchester County at the corner of Bacons Bridge Road and Ashley River Road. Cooks Crossroads is the northern gateway to the historic Ashley River district.

In 2007, Dorchester County became a government leader in efforts to protect the district by zoning to promote responsible development and mitigate the impacts of construction throughout the corridor.

In 2018, the county again demonstrated great leadership in working with citizens to commission and adopt a set of award-winning development guidelines for Cooks Crossroads. The guidelines established a vision for the Gateway as a gathering place where residents and tourists could come together to experience Lowcountry culture and see what the Ashley River Historic District has to offer.

The guidelines authorize many commercial uses, including restaurants, retail stores, and hospitality centers. However, the guidelines do not allow gas stations because these establishments do not fit into the overall vision of the area as a place of assembly, and they could create serious environmental problems, including pollution from the air. stormwater runoff and fuel spills, in an environmentally sensitive and culturally significant area.

Dorchester County is considering an amendment to these guidelines that would allow the construction of a gas station at Cooks Crossroads. It is very worrying. A gas station there would not inspire the community, promote ecotourism, or help interpret the historical significance of the area. On the contrary, it would encourage further road development in the region and increase the risk of pollution of the river itself from stormwater runoff and potential fuel spills.

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The Lowcountry cannot afford to risk one of its most precious natural, cultural and historical resources. As in the past, the Ashley River – and in particular the Historic District – promotes the culture, economy and quality of life here in the Lowcountry.

The river provides refuge for a variety of iconic wildlife, including deer, endangered birds like the swallowtail kite and wood stork, the red drum and even the endangered Atlantic sturgeon. , which goes upstream to spawn.

Historic sites like Middleton Place and Drayton Hall, both national historic monuments, as well as Magnolia Plantation, draw thousands of visitors each year and help preserve and interpret the history of the Lowcountry. The Ashley River Blue Trail and parks like Rosebrock Park, Colonial Dorchester State Park and the future Ashley River Park offer paddlers, anglers and families the opportunity to spend time together outdoors.

These individual components are shared among multiple government jurisdictions, but they are all connected by a scenic drive believed to be the state’s oldest continuously operating highway, a meandering river, and a shared past. It is imperative that all of these jurisdictions – along with other stakeholders, including residents, nonprofits and businesses – work together to preserve this shared regional asset.

The Ashley River connects us, from its marshy origins in Berkeley County to the Port of Charleston. But its future remains uncertain as urban development encroaches on its sources and changes the historic landscape along its banks. The Lowcountry must work together, now and in the future, to preserve this national treasure.

Dorchester County has a unique opportunity to create something big at Cooks Crossroads by following the visionary guidelines it adopted in 2018 and establishing a gateway to the historic district.

The county also has another opportunity to come forward as a regional leader and declare that the Ashley River deserves to be saved.

We hope that once again he will measure up.

Jason crowley is Senior Director of the Communities and Transportation Program at the Coastal Conservation League. Winslow Hastie is President and CEO of the Historic Charleston Foundation. Also contributed to this editorial Nate berry, senior vice president of the Open Space Institute; Ashley Demosthenes, President and CEO of the Lowcountry Land Trust; Carter Hudgins, President and CEO of Drayton Hall Preservation Trust; Katherine Malone-France, Preservation Officer of the National Trust for Historic Preservation; Tracey Todd, President and CEO of the Middleton Place Foundation; and Brian Turner, director of advocacy with the Preservation Society of Charleston.

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