Fans want 70-mile park system along SC’s Black River

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FILE – Residents watch rising flood waters along the Black River Swamp in Kingstree, SC, Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. A coalition working to connect 70 miles of local, state and private parks in South Carolina, says the Black River Water Trail and Park Network would help mitigate the impact of flooding due to global warming. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

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A coalition working to connect a dozen local, state and private parks along 113 kilometers of Black River in South Carolina has released a plan. Now all they need is $45 million to complete the project.

The Black River Water Trail and Park Network would begin at Kingstree in Williamsburg County and meander along the dark, slow-moving river to where it meets the Pee Dee River just north of Georgetown.

The system would include South Carolina’s newest state park, a location along the river that the institute is donating to the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. It would also include Black River Landing in Kingstree, the publicly accessible Black River Cypress Preserve and The Nature Conservancy’s Black River Preserve and Rocky Point Community Forest in Georgetown.

Supporters are asking for money from the federal government, state lawmakers, COVID-19 aid, other grants and private donations.

For centuries, the Black River has been the center of travel, business, and life near the South Carolina coast. The river system could highlight all of this, said Maria Whitehead, vice president of land for the Southeast at the Open Space Institute.

“The master plan harnesses the potential of this amazing and ecologically vital river by creating a world-class park system that will also provide recreation, tourism and flood resistance,” said Whitehead.

The network would include campsites, flood-proof treehouses, hiking trails, boardwalks, picnic shelters and a visitor center.

“A visitor can spend a few hours picnicking or hiking at one of the sites,” said Gates Roll, owner of guide service Black Water Outside. “Or, for the more adventurous, set up a kayak at Kingstree and spend a week paddling to Rocky Point stopping and camping at the many park sites along the way.”

The plan would also alleviate the problems of catastrophic flooding. By keeping the floodplain undeveloped, the land acts as a sponge for excess water and slows it down, allowing more of it to be absorbed over time, said resilience manager Ben Duncan. in South Carolina.

“By protecting the lands along the river, we have the tremendous opportunity to save area residents and businesses from the devastation resulting from the extreme flooding that is becoming more and more frequent,” Duncan said.

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