American Rivers, and our partners the Waccamaw Riverkeeper, and Pee Dee Land Trust, began working to establish the Waccamaw River Blue Trail in South Carolina in May 2009 with the goals of enhancing recreation, connecting communities to their hometown river, and protecting clean drinking water and riverside lands from poorly planned development.
The key to our success is the strength of our local partnerships. Within the first months of beginning our work on the Blue Trail, we convened the first meeting of the Upper Waccamaw Task Force, a coalition of stakeholders that includes land protection leaders in South and North Carolina including The Nature Conservancy, the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge, city and county planners, Waccamaw Riverkeeper, Pee Dee Land Trust, Ducks Unlimited, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. The goal of the Task Force is to protect lands along the Upper Waccamaw corridor, an area facing increasing threats from poorly planned development.
Through our collaborative efforts we have helped to secure millions of dollars in funding for land protection within the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge. Notable successes include the 2011 Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) acquisition of the 240-acre Long Tract, which connects the City of Conway and Coastal Carolina University to the Waccamaw Refuge. This strategic acquisition is also within the recently approved minor boundary expansion area for the refuge, paving the way for a potential major boundary expansion in coming years.
In 2010, Task Force partners, including The Nature Conservancy and the City of Conway, worked together to protect the 142-acre Floyd tract within Conway. This tract offers tremendous opportunities for recreation along the Waccamaw and protecting critical wetland floodplain. More recently, the partnership helped secure nearly $2 million dollars in funding for acquisitions and easements for the Waccamaw Refuge through the LWCF Landscape Collaborative grant. Also during this time, the Pee Dee Land Trust secured their first conservation easement in Horry County, a 92-acre tract near South Carolina DNR’s Waccamaw River Heritage Preserve.
In addition, American Rivers works with local partners to improve local codes and ordinances. Specifically, we worked with conservation partners and planning staff to assist in the revision process of the Georgetown County Tree Ordinance. These revisions include the protection of riverside trees, limiting redevelopment after timber harvesting, and promoting the use of natural systems instead of expensive man-made structures to filter and store stormwater.
The strength of local partnerships has been a driving force in the success of the Waccamaw River Blue Trail and accompanying protection efforts. Stakeholders have worked together to develop a comprehensive vision and implementation strategy for the river corridor that not only improves recreation and access but also protects important riverside land for future generations to enjoy.
Photo Credit: Waccamaw River, SC, Charles Slate