Sanford family's Coosaw Plantation protected with $2.5M conservation easement

May 11, 2011 

Coosaw Plantation -- 1,584 acres of marsh vistas and Spanish moss-draped trees where former Gov. Mark Sanford and his siblings spent much of their youth -- will stay pristine under the protection of a $2.5 million conservation easement, Beaufort County announced Wednesday.

The deal will help preserve water quality in the Coosaw River and reduce the threat of development around Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, said Ann Bluntzer, executive director of the Beaufort County Open Land Trust.

Preservation will also ensure the land remains how the four Sanford siblings remember it.

Their father, Dr. Marshall Clement Sanford Sr., bought the property in 1965, said John Sanford, who still lives in Beaufort.

"It's really where we grew up," he said. "To be honest with you, there's a tremendous amount of emotional attachment we have to the property."

For years, the family raised about 600 head of cattle and 800 acres of corn, soybeans and cucumbers, he said, recalling the hard work of mending fences and tending crops.

When Marshall Sr. died in 1982, he was buried on the land.

The family couldn't imagine portions of the farm being sold and developed into houses or condos, John Sanford said.

Meanwhile, conservationists had long wanted to preserve the plantation's miles of riverfront and add it to a growing list of open lands in the area.

"It's been on the 'to-be-protected' list for 10 years," Bluntzer said.

The Open Land Trust approached the family late last year, she said, and coordinated a purchase between Beaufort County and the air station.

Two-thirds of the cost was paid by the Department of Defense.

The county's Rural and Critical Lands program paid the rest.

Bluntzer said the Sanfords agreed to sell development rights at a reduced rate, resulting in the cheapest price per acre of any Rural and Critical Lands property purchased so far.

"The family donated 25 percent of the value of the whole project, which is very rare," she said. "The Sanfords, I think, really wanted it protected."

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