The Ebb & Flow

Interview: Celebrating 35 Years of Protecting the Lowcountry

For our 35th anniversary, we want to reflect upon our history and celebrate the milestones we’ve achieved while also discussing the vital future of our organization. Over the last 35 years, the Lowcountry Land Trust has worked with landowners, communities, private businesses, and local government to conserve treasured lands that are necessary for a healthy coastline environment while simultaneously protecting the culture and history of the Lowcountry.  

It all started in the mid-1980s when Bill Alge saw a threat of development creeping into his West Ashley neighborhood. When he rounded up his neighbors and inspired them to save the island that rests just between their neighborhood and the water, it led to a journey he could never have predicted. That group of neighbors went on to found the Lowcountry Open Land Trust in order to place a conservation easement on the property. In recognition of Bill’s efforts and after his passing, the island was given his namesake: Alge Island. 

Bill’s daughter, Gale Fennell, spoke with admiration of her father’s work and was proud to see how far LLT has come. “Being a witness from the sidelines of the momentum the Lowcountry Land Trust has gained since my father’s small initiative to protect an island behind our house has been very humbling. The empowerment that grabbed hold and took off from the effort of one man is awe inspiring and intimidating at once as it demonstrates how much each of us can contribute to the betterment of humanity if we try.” Gale claims that although her father “didn’t have a lot of cash or a lot of high-profile connections” he was driven to protect the island “because he knew how important it was to [their] quality of life.” 

For Gale, it has always been easy to understand the value of conserving Alge Island. All she had to do was stand in the backyard and look out all the way to the Stono River. But, for the neighborhood just east of theirs, their backyard views were eventually replaced by a cluster of condominiums. Gale’s view now stands as a reminder not only of the protection of Alge Island but also of the threat it once faced.

The Land Trust started with the comradery of a community determined to preserve their local environment, and this need for community involvement continues today. Gale emphasized this, explaining that “you don’t have to convince people of the necessity of protecting our natural resources, but you do have to convince them to be a part of the solution. It is a community problem that needs a community solution.” 

While the engagement of our local communities has always been a vital resource to the Land Trust, we would not be where we are now without the generosity of landowners who worked with us to place conservation easements on their beloved properties. Our first ever private conservation easement came from the owners of High Point Plantation on Wadmalaw Island. As founding board members, they had a multitude of reasons to place a conservation easement on their family lands. “One reason, among several, is to assure the preservation of a natural asset of the greater community for future generations to enjoy. High Point is an example of an iconic Lowcountry setting, visible to the public, that should never succumb to development.”

As we stride forward in our conservation journey, we are committed to continuing our stewardship efforts on the near 150,000 acres of land across 500 properties already protected while actively pursuing new conservation opportunities from the shores of Winyah Bay to the banks of the Savannah River. We are honored to continue the legacy of Bill Alge and his neighbors, who came together to protect their valuable landscape. As an organization, we will continue to advocate for our communities and work to preserve our Lowcountry culture, history, and sense of place. It is the connection between people and land that makes the Lowcountry special, and we intend to keep it that way.

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