Preservation of Beaufort County’s oldest live oak progresses with $1.5M recommendation | Hilton Head

20230222_Cherry Hill Plantation Oak-0019.jpg

Plans to develop 12 acres surrounding the Cherry Hill Plantation live oak were scuttled last fall, and now the property owner is seeking a conservation solution that would preserve the land and the oak, the oldest and largest in Beaufort County, seen here in Port Royal, South Carolina, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023. The 350-year-old behemoth has a circumference that is reported to be a few inches larger than the iconic Angel Oak in Charleston. Tony Kukulich/Staff

The developer appeared before Port Royal’s design review board last September to request a building variance.

After enthusiastic public opposition, the board voted unanimously to deny the request, which the developer subsequently withdrew.

With development plans shelved, property owner Merry Land Investments LLC shifted gears and began to consider a conservation solution. The corporation turned to the county’s Rural and Critical Land Preservation Program. If the county moves forward with the purchase, it will be with funding from the program.

Even before the publicity around the Cherry Hill Oak’s possible demise, the tree was a bit of a celebrity, said Michael Murphy, an longtime arborist. 

Hilton Head developer proposes 4,800 new homes in this 'secret place'

The grand oak was given its title as the county’s largest and oldest tree in 2009, as the city of Beaufort was preparing to celebrate its 300th anniversary. Murphy recorded its measurements after he was asked to participate in a project to find the oldest tree in the county.

“Our goal was to find a tree that would be like the Angel Oak (on Johns Island) is to Charleston County for Beaufort County,” Murphy told The Post and Courier this year. “We found it.”

Speaking to committee members this week, Murphy lauded the future Cherry Hill Park as a potential “crown jewel” in the 24,000 acres secured by the Rural and Critical Land Preservation Program since 1999. 

“On (the park’s) 12 acres grows a diverse collection of native trees,” Murphy said, “but it also houses 32 landmark trees as well as the Cherry Hill live oak itself.”

The program’s board this summer voted and approved a recommendation that the county move forward with purchasing the 12-acre parcel. Monday’s approval by the Public Facilities and Safety Committee will bring the recommendation to County Council.

Editorial: It's Beaufort's answer to the Angel Oak, and it needs protection

If purchased, the site would still require significant funding to clean up the area and maintain the tree. 

A group established by Cunningham, called Friends of Cherry Hill Oak, intends to raise money in partnership with the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry to support both the care of the live oak and preservation of the future park. 

Check Also

Preservation Efforts Stymied as Yale & Towne Faces Likely Demolition in Stamford

Preservation Efforts Stymied as Yale & Towne Faces Likely Demolition in Stamford

STAMFORD – The city seal, used to mark official documents, displays two keys. Stamford’s first …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *