Welcome to the October edition of our Berkeley County newsletter. I hope you are staying happy and healthy!
Autumn is officially upon us. This is my favorite time of year in the Lowcountry because it’s the perfect time to get outside. Autumn is the season of dove hunts over golden cornfields, bonfires in backyards with friends and family, fishing for speckled trout and redfish on the Cooper River, and brisk walks through woods brimming with color and activity. Find some time to get outside this month and take advantage of all the opportunities Berkeley County has to offer.
Please share this newsletter with your friends, family, and colleagues. Feel free to reach out to me directly with any questions, comments, concerns or ideas about how we can work together to protect and further enhance Berkeley County. You can email me at [email protected] or call me at (843) 723-5127. I look forward to hearing from you soon!
Berkeley County’s Special Places
Painted bunting at Beidler Forest Grassland Trails, photo by Will Pace
One of my favorite places to get outside in Berkeley County is Audubon South Carolina’s Francis Beidler Forest. Walking along the boardwalk through ancient cypress and tupelo trees—some over 1,000 years old—gives you a sense of wandering through history itself. But Beidler Forest is much more than the boardwalk. The large protected area consists of over 18,000 acres and spans three different counties. Now, for the first time, visitors to Beidler Forest can experience new habitats by taking a walk on the recently opened Grassland and Woodland Trails. Located beside the entrance gate to Beidler Forest, the Grassland and Woodland Trails allow visitors to witness some of the native longleaf pine restoration that Audubon has been working on, and perhaps even catch a glimpse of a painted bunting, often described as the most beautiful bird in North America. The Grassland and Woodland Trails are free and open to the public every day from dawn to dusk.
If you need another reason to get excited about the Grassland and Woodland Trails, check out this videoof our friends Matt Johnson and Jennifer McCarthey Tyrrell at Audubon South Carolina putting on a live banding demonstration at the trails as part of BirdFest 2020. More information about Beidler Forest can be found on Audubon’s website.
Another great place to get outside in Berkeley County is Cypress Gardens, recently renovated after it was badly damaged by flooding in 2015. Like many of the sites on the Cooper River, Cypress Gardens has served both as a rice plantation and a duck hunting club over its long history. Today, it is a 170-acre preserve and garden that is open to the public. Visitors can enjoy over three miles of paths that wander through swamplands and cultivated gardens. If you make it out in October, you might hear a great horned owl, as they become more vocal in the autumn months. Keep an ear out!
The Conservation League in Berkeley County
Oak Grove in Francis Marion National Forest, photo by Amanda Pennington
The Francis Marion National Forest is by far the largest piece of protected public land in Berkeley County. Visitors to the forest can hike the Palmetto Trail, mountain bike the Wambaw Cycle Trail, target shoot at the newly renovated Twin Ponds Rifle Range, or fish for bream and bass in any of the myriad ponds that dot the massive 258,000-acre forest.
Unfortunately, the Conservation League recently learned of a concerning site in the Francis Marion National Forest, but we are collaborating with the Forest Service to improve the situation. Boggy Head Rifle Range, located off S.C. Highway 41 near Bethera, is an unsupervised shooting range. Boggy Head was originally established as a place for hunters to sight in their rifles in preparation for deer hunting season. Unfortunately, the unsupervised site has not been used responsibly. The range has consistently been littered with various forms of garbage, including computer monitors and electronics apparently used as targets. A recent environmental study revealed elevated amounts of dangerous heavy metals, including arsenic and lead. Additionally, the site is threat to the safety of shooters and visitors. This year, numerous violations were issued by law enforcement, and a person was struck in the neck by a bullet fragment.
This type of dangerous and ecologically harmful site has no place in the Francis Marion National Forest. The Forest Service reached out to us for ideas to create a safer future for Boggy Head. We shared some of our initial ideas, but we’d also like to hear from you! If you have any thoughts about a safer future for Boggy Head, please reach out to me. We hope to work together with the Forest Service to explore all options and implement a new plan for the site going forward.
Events, Activities, and Meetings
NOTE: Berkeley County has officially reopened its government offices and buildings. Seating for public meetings in the Assembly Room is arranged in accordance with social distancing guidelines. As a result, seating is limited.
If you do not wish to attend meetings in person but do want to follow along live, all meetings listed below will be streamed on Facebook Live. You do not need a Facebook account to watch.
Public Concern Podcast — Hosted online by the Conservation Coalition, including the Conservation League’s Alan Hancock, this podcast features many of our partners from across the state discussing local conservation issues. You can listen here.
Berkeley County Committee Meetings — October 12 at 6 p.m. Administration Building — Assembly Room, 1003 Highway 52, Moncks Corner. Agendas, when posted, can be reviewed here.
Berkeley County Board of Zoning Appeals – October 20 at 6 p.m. Administration Building – Assembly Room, 1003 Highway 52, Moncks Corner. Agendas, when posted, can be reviewed here.
Berkeley County Council Meeting – October 26 at 6 p.m. Administration Building – Assembly Room, 1003 Highway 52, Moncks Corner. Agendas, when posted, can be reviewed here.
Berkeley County Planning Commission – October 27 at 6 p.m. Administration Building – Assembly Room, 1003 Highway 52, Moncks Corner. Agendas, when posted, can be reviewed here.