Palmetto Bluff to re-create history with 40 acres of rice fields

gmartin@islandpacket.comJuly 4, 2012 

In the mid-18th century, rice fields sprawled throughout much of the forested land south of the May River, as the grain became the South Carolina colony's most lucrative crop.

One hundred years later, rice production has mostly vanished in the Lowcountry, but now developers at Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton are seeking to bring the past to life.

Construction of 40 acres of rice fields on the property could begin this summer, part of an effort to restore the area's historical authenticity, according to Troy Lucas, vice president of land development for the resort property.

"This is the same variety of rice that made South Carolina world-renowned during the plantation period," Lucas said. "It's also about offering biodiversity for people to look at, appreciate and enjoy."

Lucas intends to harvest the Carolina Gold variety of rice favored by planters in the plantation era.

The project earned the approval of the Bluffton Planning Commission last week, and commission chairman Thomas Viljac praised Palmetto Bluff for its efforts.

"They're just a major contributor to the protection of this area's environment," he said. "I know the town supports them in this endeavor, and I'm sure the public will as well."

The first phase of construction would require developers to remove several pine trees from 73 acres on the property, along both sides of Big House Landing Road.

Gates would then be installed to maintain the water depths of each field. According to Lucas, there would be seven paddies, each four to seven acres, with water depths of up to 2 feet.

He added that the fields would primarily be built for the benefit of Palmetto Bluff homeowners and guests at the exclusive resort.

Much of the harvest would be bagged as souvenirs for guests, Lucas said, and it could also be used at the resort's restaurants.

"We're not looking for this to be a money-making enterprise," he said.

There's another, more aesthetic benefit to the fields.

"They just create a beautiful landscape," he said. "Waterfowl will be drawn to it, and it will be great for bird watching."

The 22,000-acre community -- about two-thirds the size of Hilton Head Island -- also features several public amenities. Earlier this year, the resort's inn was named the best hotel in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

Follow reporter Grant Martin at twitter.com/LowCoBiz.

Related content:

Inn at Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton named country's best hotel, Feb. 1, 2012

Bad storms rising: The end of Lowcountry rice culture

Carolina Gold Rice Foundation

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