Groups gather to protect ‘Sportsman’s Paradise’

  • Monday, July 21, 2014

File photo The Chapel of Ease site near Goose Creek is one of the many areas around Berkeley County groups are trying to protect.

An informal networking meeting — the first of its kind — took place July 18 among those seeking to conserve and preserve Berkeley County’s green- ways and blueways.

The meeting was organized by Berkeley Soil and Water Conservation District and held at the Old Santee Canal Park in Moncks Corner. Seventeen people from government, nonprofit, and commercial entities attended. The entire purpose was to find ways these groups can work together, combine resources, and end duplication of efforts.

“It’s so we can stop recreating the wheel,” Berkeley Soil and Water Conservation District Vice Chairman Barry Jurs.

Jurs called Berkeley County a “Sportsman Paradise” and said he hoped to create partnerships to protect that quality despite projected explosive growth in the county.

“Particularly as our population moves from rural to more metropolitan, people forget what’s out there,” Jurs said. He said growing “ecotourism,” where people visit passive parks and passive historic sites, will not only add to the quality of life here, but also to economic prosperity of the region.

Attendees included U.S. Forest Service, Francis Marion National Forest staff, and representatives from the Lord Berkeley Conservation Trust. The mayor of Goose Creek, Michael Heitzler, was the only local government official present. Heitzler joked during the meeting that opponents have called him “Captain Planet” for his desire to preserve greenspace.

Heitzler’s latest project has been the preservation of the Chapel of Ease site off of Old Highway 52. He’s called it the state’s “most historically significant site.”

One of the few entities not present was Berkeley County. Jurs expressed his disappointment they were not at the table.

“It is terribly important our county be a central part of what we do,” he said. “Local government is vital to successful planning projects.”

During the meeting, attendees said a new countywide plan is needed to protect greenspace, and discussed ways to interconnect existing green-space.

But the meeting wasn’t as productive as some would have hoped. Many lamented lack of funding for projects. The Goose Creek mayor wanted to see more action.

“I’m looking for money or things money buys, like services,” Heitzler said during the meeting.

After the session, he said, “I was hoping for an avenue forward with our parks, wetlands and greenspace. And that didn’t happen. But I’m responsible for pursuing every possibility.”

Jurs said the meeting was just a first step to open dialogue between the many entities. The next meeting will likely take place after November and will focus on commercial and retail partnerships.

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