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Supporters want 70-mile park network along South Carolina's Black River

They say it would promote tourism, history and business, and that keeping the area undeveloped could mitigate catastrophic flooding.
Credit: (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)
FILE - Residents observe rising floodwaters along the Black River Swamp in Kingstree, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015.

KINGSTREE, S.C. — A coalition working to connect a dozen local, state and private parks along 70 miles (113 kilometers) of South Carolina's Black River has released a plan. Now all they need is $45 million to complete the project.

The Black River Water Trail and Park Network would start in Kingstree in Williamsburg County and wind along the dark, slow-moving river to where it meets the Pee Dee River just north of Georgetown.

The network would include South Carolina's newest state park, a spot along the river that the institute is donating to the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. It would also include the Black River Landing in Kingstree, the publicly available Black River Cypress Preserve and The Nature Conservancy’s Black River Preserve and Rocky Point Community Forest in Georgetown.

Supporters are seeking money from the federal government, state lawmakers, COVID-19 relief, other grants and private donations.

For centuries, the Black River was the center of travel, business and most life near South Carolina's coast. The river network could highlight all of that, said Maria Whitehead, vice president for land for the Southeast at the Open Space Institute.

“The master plan taps this stunning and ecologically vital river’s potential by creating a world-class park network that will also provide recreation, tourism, and flood resilience,” Whitehead said.

The network would include campsites, flood-resistant tree houses, hiking trails, boardwalks, picnic shelters and a visitor center.

“A visitor can spend a few hours picnicking or hiking at one of the sites,” said Gates Roll, owner of guide service Black Water Outside. “Or, for the more adventurous, put a kayak in at Kingstree and spend a week paddling down to Rocky Point stopping and camping at the many park sites along the way."

The plan would also mitigate problems from catastrophic flooding. By keeping the floodplain undeveloped, the land acts as a sponge for the excess water and slows it down, allowing more of it to be absorbed over time, South Carolina Chief Resilience Officer Ben Duncan said.

“By protecting the land along the river, we have the tremendous opportunity to save area residents and businesses from the devastation that results from extreme flooding events that are becoming more and more frequent,” Duncan said.

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