Charleston has continually been ranked the number one city in the United States for years. There are beautiful beaches and a beautiful historic city with friendly residents. This popularity, however, puts pressure not only on the City of Charleston but also the surrounding towns and cities. One of these towns is Mount Pleasant, where I have lived all my life. When I was little, Mount Pleasant had about 50,000 residents. Throughout my middle and high school, it has grown to around 80,000 people. With this growth comes an increasing need for groups that work to conserve open space. This is where East Cooper Land Trust comes in.
East Cooper Land Trust (ECLT) is a non-profit in Mount Pleasant, SC right across the Cooper River from Charleston. The mission of ECLT is to be “a community-supported organization devoted to conserving natural spaces, thus the quality of life for current and future generations.” They achieve this goal through identifying open spaces that have environmental, cultural and historic values, and either working with the owner of the property to place a conservation easement on the property or buying the property.
One of the main projects the East Cooper LandTrust has in the works is a trail that, when completed, will connect the Cooper River to the Santee River—roughly an 80-mile stretch of land. Learning about the East Cooper Trail has shown me the importance of having a trail that allows a community to easily and safely hike or bike from one area to the other. It has been successfully accomplished in areas similar to Mount Pleasant, such as Greenville, where the Swamp Rabbit Trail has become a must-do attraction in the area. When I came into this internship, I knew about the trail but I just thought it would be a nice thing to have in my home town. However, I have learned that it also is an economic booster, and above all, an environmental booster. The trail will allow people to easily get places without using a car, therefore cutting down on the number of vehicles on the road.
Another learning experience during my internship was when I was working on planning the documentary showing of Bin Yah, which discusses how new construction in Mount Pleasant has pushed out the African American communities that have inhabited Mount Pleasant for centuries. I have always known that these communities are in danger, not just in Mount Pleasant, but across the South. However, the documentary has made me look into the destruction of these communities through a conservation mindset. Our hope in showing this documentary is to continue to have the discussion about the need to balance development and preservation of cultural areas.
While development is going to continue in the Charleston area, it is important for organizations like the East Cooper Land Trust to continue conserving natural cultural places that have drawn so many people to this beautiful area.
Photos courtesy of East Cooper Land Trust.