South Carolinians raising millions to protect centuries-old Angel Oak
By Harriet McLeod
JOHNS ISLAND, South Carolina (Reuters) - A group trying to preserve the centuries-old Angel Oak near Charleston, South Carolina, is racing against a fall deadline to raise the $3.6 million needed to protect surrounding land from development that environmentalists contend would harm the tree.
The Angel Oak, with a massive canopy stretching more than 1,889 square yards (1,580 square meters) and trunk of more than 25 feet in circumference, has drawn generations of visitors to Johns Island near historic Charleston.
In less than two months, the Lowcountry Open Land Trust has collected almost $700,000 from more than 9,000 donors. With local governments contributing additional money toward the purchase, the land trust still has about $500,000 left to raise by November 21.
Many donations were dropped into jars at local Piggly Wiggly grocery stores, Director Elizabeth Hagood said, but some funds have come from as far away as South America.
"It's amazing the connection people have to this tree," she said. "It's very passionate."
Named for 19th-century rice and cotton plantation owner Justus Angel, the oak stands 65 feet high and is estimated to be between 400 and 500 years old.
While it is not the oldest or the biggest tree in South Carolina's low country, the grandeur of its weighty branches draws about 36,000 people from around the world each year, said Cam Patterson, director of special facilities for the city of Charleston, which owns the Angel Oak and the small park around it.
The tree also has historical significance, Hagood said. Continued...