Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Audubon South Carolina is excited to announce their award of a $130,000 matching grant from the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor’s Product Development Grant Program, spurring the long-awaited replacement of the Francis Beidler Forest’s 1.75-mile boardwalk trail. An amount matching the $130,000 grant from SCNHC had to be in hand in order to qualify, and thanks to very generous gifts from the MeadWestvaco Foundation, Argos and Holcim Cement Companies, Showa Denko, local family foundations, and hundreds of individual donors from coast to coast, it was possible to apply. This is the largest single grant ever awarded by the agency, and will enable hundreds of thousands of visitors to be added to the 360,000 people who have already discovered the wonders of Four Holes Swamp over the last 35 years. Beidler Forest Center Director, Michael Dawson, said “I was excited when I saw the grant application form, as our project was such a great match, but I was REALLY excited when we got the notice we had been awarded the funding! It got us to the point where we could actually begin construction!”
The South Carolina National Heritage Corridor (SCNHC) was designated by Congress in 1996 as a National Heritage Area (a program of the National Parks Service). Stretching over 17 counties and 320 miles across South Carolina, the SCNHC is committed to promoting and preserving the cultural, natural and historic resources of South Carolina and historic resources of South Carolina.
Audubon opened Beidler Forest to the public in 1977. The original 3,415-acre sanctuary included 1,800 acres of virgin Cypress-Tupelo swamp forest, which looked the same then as it did when Columbus arrived in the New World. From the outset, Audubon staff knew that protecting this treasure depended on two things: expanding the protected area to include the entire swamp, and engaging as many people as possible in our mission. From day one, making the swamp accessible and understandable to visitors was a quintessential part of that mission. The boardwalk trail is the vehicle that carries visitors deep into the very heart of the swamp. Over the years, visitors have come from all fifty states and over 30 countries. More than 105,000 students have participated in our education programs. In addition, the sanctuary has now grown to encompass over 17,000 acres and is enhanced by thousands more acres protected by conservation easements held by Lowcountry Open Land Trust, Ducks Unlimited and others.
The new boardwalk will be stronger than the old one, made out of “greener” materials, and will be wider to make it fully ADA compliant, so that two wheelchairs may pass each other. Local dock building specialists, Blutide Marine Construction, won the construction bid. The Beidler Boardwalk will be open to the public during the expected seven-month construction period. However, in the early stretch of the walk, visitors will need to be prepared for getting off the boardwalk and navigating a short, sometimes soggy, woodland trail to get around construction zones. Unfortunately, that means that those in wheelchairs, strollers or with mobility issues will NOT be able to tour the boardwalk for the first few weeks of construction. Once the rebuilding reaches the deep swamp, the need to circumnavigate construction will not be an issue.
The boardwalk project is budgeted for $1.3 million dollars. To date, thanks to the donors already mentioned and additional major donors like the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Zeist Foundation from other regions, Audubon has raised all but about $131,000. Audubon is seeking help from other local residents, businesses and foundations that might like the satisfaction of being a part of the completion of this wonderful project. Donors of any amount will have their names permanently recorded in the Beidler Boardwalk Book of Heroes. Various naming opportunities exist for larger-scale donors ($10,000+). To inquire about a donation or to ask a question, please contact Center Director Mike Dawson at firstname.lastname@example.org or Development Director Nancyjean Nettles at email@example.com. Both can be reached at 843-462-2150.
Now in its second century, Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Our national network of community-based nature centers and chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people of all ages and backgrounds in conservation.