The Department of Defense (DoD) and Beaufort County Council announced the permanent protection of 2067.77 acres, known as “Oak Point” on the Wimbee River in the St Helena Sound in December 2021.
The conservation easement was funded by the DoD and Beaufort County Rural and Critical Land Preservation Program and is held in partnership between DoD and Beaufort County Open Land Trust. Partners each contributed $2,900,000 for a total land purchase of $5,800,000
“This is truly a “Team Beaufort” victory, and we thank all the parties involved in making this a success,” said
Colonel Karl R. Arbogast, Commanding Officer, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, SC. “We are
pleased to add this property to over 13,000 acres of protected land around the Air Station. Preserving Oak Point protects the Air Station’s military mission by ensuring unobstructed training for our pilots and aircrew. More importantly, it provides mutual, multiple benefits by protecting not just our military mission but the wonderful community we ca! home. Thanks again for the outstanding support to the sound of “eedom.”
This property has been a long-sought-after priority for protection by Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort. It is located off the north end of MCAS-Beaufort Runway 05/23 and within the Air Installations Compatible Use Zones (AICUZ) noise footprint.
Funding came from the Rural and Critical Land Preservation Program and the Department’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI) program in a competitive grant program. REPI funds have helped protect several other properties in Beaufort County, including Clarendon Farms (2009-10: 1,203 acres) and are frequently leveraged with Rural and Critical Preservation Program funds; joint projects include Mcleod Farms (2007: 375 acres) and nearby Chisolm Property (2008: 4,717 acres), Coosaw Plantation (2011: 1,529 acres) and Dopson Tract (2014: 291 acres) to the south. MCAS Beaufort and Beaufort County have been partners on these types of projects for over 20 years.
In the 2020 Beaufort County “Greenprint,” Oak Point also emerged as the top-tier priority for protection due to its large size and ability to provide critical habitat and stabilize water quality in the St Helena Sound. Oak Point is bound by Barnwell and Wimbee Creeks on the north and by South Wimbee Creek on the south, all of which drain into St. Helena Sound, providing approximately 18 miles of river and tidal creek frontage. Oak Point is located between SCDNR-owned South Williman Island and RCLPP/SCDNR-protected North Williman Island (8,000 acres) and Buzzard Island (120 acres) on the north and surrounded by other protected properties. It represents the last unprotected property immediately adjacent to the St Helena Sound.
“The conservation of Oak Point is an outstanding accomplishment of the Beaufort County Rural and Critical Lands program in a 50% partnership with one of our counties’ major employers and economic drivers – the United S tates Marine Corps. It is the third-largest property preserved in Beaufort County by BCRCL to date. If le& unprotected, the current zoning could have a!owed at least 600 houses and subsequent docks threatening the waters of the ACE basin and air space for MCAS Beaufort. The preservation of Oak Point is recognized as a major local and state-wide accomplishment,” said Council Member Alice Howard, chairwoman of the Natural Resources Committee.