Acquisition of 1,806-acre Weyerhaeuser property along the Black River and a recent Boeing grant will help jumpstart Andrews’ economic revitalization efforts making way for Black River State Park.
ANDREWS, S.C. (November 20, 2023)— The South Carolina Conservation Bank (SCCB), the Open Space Institute (OSI), Boeing, and the Town of Andrews today jointly announced the permanent protection of more than 1,800 acres along the Black River just outside the town of Andrews in rural Georgetown County. Purchased from Weyerhaeuser, the acquisition is a win for conservation and rural economic development and a cornerstone of the collaborative Black River Initiative.
The Black River Initiative is a community-driven effort to establish a new recreational water trail connecting a growing network of public lands along 70 miles of river through Williamsburg and Georgetown counties. The Initiative created South Carolina’s first state park in more than 15 years when the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism (SCPRT) acquired a riverside property from OSI in 2021. In addition to protecting vast stretches of an ecologically diverse landscape, the plan aims to stimulate the economy of rural riverside communities, including Andrews and Kingstree, by drawing outdoor enthusiasts to experience the destination water trail.
A leader of the Black River Initiative, OSI acquired the most recent property from Weyerhaeuser in mid-November. The 1,806-acre tract—the largest of the Black River park properties–is just minutes from downtown Andrews. It will serve as the centerpiece of Andrews’ recently released town revitalization plan and offers opportunities for biking, paddling, picnicking, hiking, camping, and fishing. OSI will hold and steward the land, and ultimately transfer the property to SCPRT.
“I firmly believe that protected public lands are essential to the state’s economic future,” stated South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster. “I am proud of our state’s investment in this future park and am delighted that industry giant Boeing continues to invest in this transformational project that will allow current and future generations to appreciate and enjoy the unique beauty of the Black River.”
Project funders include SCCB, the South Carolina Office of Resilience (SCOR), Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Funding (BIL Funding), Boeing, Knobloch Family Foundation, and additional private sources.
“Conservation works best when it contributes to the local economy, community, and culture of a place. The Weyerhaeuser tract checks all of the boxes,” said Dr. Maria Whitehead, OSI’s Vice President of Land in the Southeast. “OSI is incredibly grateful for the funding partners that came together to make this project happen, and for the engagement and commitment of our state and industry partners.”
The SCCB has been a consistent and essential funding partner, investing in nine public park projects in the Black River corridor.
“The Black River Initiative exemplifies the remarkable outcomes that we can achieve through public-private partnerships,” explained Raleigh West, SCCB Director. “We are excited that the Andrews-Weyerhaeuser project will not only protect nature, but also help bring eco-tourism to one of South Carolina’s treasured rural communities.”
In 2021, Boeing made its initial investment in the Black River effort when it partnered with The Nature Conservancy in the purchase of the “Park Ranger” tract, a 163-acre property that serves as the Black River ranger station. Boeing recently made another grant to OSI to advance ongoing collaborative efforts to plan, design, build, and promote the new park network.
“Boeing invests in the communities where our teammates and families live and work, and that includes protecting our waterfront ecosystems,” said Lindsay Leonard, senior director of Government Operations for Boeing. “Preserving the Black River isn’t just about nature’s beauty—it’s about nurturing a vital lifeline for communities, fostering recreation and growing the bond between people and the outdoors.”
SCOR also contributed to the acquisition.
“SCOR appreciates the opportunity to communicate, collaborate, and cooperate with our fellow state agencies SCDNR, SCPRT, and SCCB, to enhance the beauty and functionality of Black River State Park,” stated SCOR’s Chief Resilience Officer, Ben Duncan. “Together, we can transform this natural gem into a resilient and thriving resource for the community.”
A Growing Network of Parks
The Weyerhaeuser tract will be the largest parcel in the 70-mile network of 12 parks, bringing the total of Black River State Park land to 3,500 acres, not including the parks owned and operated by municipal, private, and nonprofit partners.
“The Weyerhaeuser property is enormously valuable to the future Black River State Park not only because of the vast acreage it adds to parkland – but also because it provides a physical link to Andrews, just minutes from their downtown,” said SCPRT Director, Duane Parrish. “As we’ve collaborated with public, private, and nonprofit entities to create this park network, the Andrews leadership and community have been constant and committed partners and advocates for this historic project. Andrews sees the value and possibilities the future Black River State Park brings to their community, which makes the Weyerhaeuser property an incredibly special acquisition.”
The Town of Andrews straddles Georgetown and Williamsburg counties and is strategically located at the heart of the 70-mile-long Black River park network. Like the Town of Kingstree, its neighbor to the west, the Andrews community sees the Black River as a natural asset.
Andrews recently released a revitalization plan that was developed with community input by land planning consultants Earth Design and Arnett Muldrow. The plan envisions vibrant, flood-resilient park spaces, linkages to the future state park, and welcoming streetscapes.
“In Andrews we have a new plan and new hope,” stated Andrews Mayor, Frank McClary. “We plan to harness – and showcase – the world-class Black River experience to help create sustainable new jobs and opportunities for local residents.”
About the Black River State Park
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation in South Carolina generates more than 72,000 direct jobs, $5.7 billion in total outdoor recreation value, and $2.9 billion in wages and salaries. Not included in these numbers are the myriad of people and businesses that choose South Carolina as home because of its unrivaled natural beauty and access to the outdoors.
“We are always happy to partner on projects that provide significant conservation value for our operating communities,” said Tyler Pope, Land Asset Manager for Weyerhaeuser. “We recognize this property will open up exceptional recreational access and economic opportunity along the Black River, and we are excited to help advance the vision for this local park network.”
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The Open Space Institute protects scenic, natural, and historic landscapes to provide public enjoyment, conserve habitat and working lands, and sustain communities. Founded in 1974 to protect significant landscapes in New York State, OSI has been a partner in the protection of nearly 2.3 million acres in North America, including more than 50,000 acres in South Carolina. Visit OSI Southeast online at https://www.openspaceinstitute.org/southeast
The South Carolina Conservation Bank was created in 2002 by the SC General Assembly to fund the preservation of, and public access to, many types of South Carolina land, including wildlife habitats, natural areas, historical sites, sites of unique ecological significance, forestlands, farmlands, watersheds, open space, urban parks and parks like the future Black River State Park. To date, the Bank has protected over 360,000 acres across our state in its efforts to keep South Carolina a special and significant place—simultaneously protecting valuable natural resources and respecting private property rights. Learn more at https://www.sccbank.sc.gov
As a leading global aerospace company, Boeing develops, manufactures and services commercial airplanes, defense products and space systems for customers in more than 150 countries. As a top U.S. exporter, the company leverages the talents of a global supplier base to advance economic opportunity, sustainability and community impact. Boeing’s diverse team is committed to innovating for the future, leading with sustainability, and cultivating a culture based on the company’s core values of safety, quality and integrity. Join our team and find your purpose at boeing.com/careers.