Friday, January 17, 2014
Mansfield Plantation north of Georgetown is protected forever from development under a conservation easement announced Friday by the Parker family and The Nature Conservancy.
The property, more than 760 acres in total, is near where the Black and Pee Dee rivers come together to help form Winyah Bay at Georgetown.
Mansfield Plantation's owners, John Rutledge Parker and his wife, Sallie Middleton Parker, who were able to re-acquire the Parker family's plantation in 2004 after an absence of ninety-two years, decided 2013 was the year to solidify the legacy of “Mighty Mansfield.”
In late December, The Nature Conservancy purchased a bargain-sale conservation easement on the Plantation with funds from North American Wetland Conservation Act program. The project was made possible because the landowners donated over 85% of the value of the easement, a charitable gift to conservation through The Conservancy.
Mansfield Plantation was established in 1755 when recently widowed Susannah Man, a Parker family ancestor, purchased 500 acres of kings-grant land on the outskirts of the new village of Georgetown. Under her ownership, Mansfield grew to 760 acres and blossomed into one of the largest rice plantations in South Carolina.
These 760 acres and more are included in the new conservation easement and will remain much like they are today and were hundreds of years ago.
Protecting nature and history
The Plantation, which is on the register of historic places, is recognized as one of the most architecturally intact rice plantations in South Carolina and to visit Mansfield Plantation today is to step back in time.
The Parker's commitment to preserving and restoring the natural communities and cultural history of their family land is evident in details from the flowering native plants under the open longleaf pine forest to the clapboard chapel they immaculately restored as a tribute to early African-American slave culture and spirituality.
Those slaves and their knowledge, ingenuity and hard work played a significant role in the success of Mansfield and many of the other rice plantations in Georgetown County.
In addition to protecting many of the relics of the rice culture, the conservation easement will help protect a host of rare and threatened species including Bobwhite Quail, Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, wintering waterfowl, Wood Storks, and songbirds that thrive in the native longleaf pine forest, intact ricefield impoundments, and freshwater forested wetlands found on the property.
“It has been a tremendous privilege to partner with the Parker Family in protecting Mansfield,” says Maria Whitehead, TNC's Project Director for Winyah Bay and Pee Dee River Basin, “This easement, which was tailored to the family's long-term plans for the property, will provide natural habitats for wildlife, protect the scenic viewshed along the Black River, and contribute to the quality of drinking water for Georgetown residents while also protecting an invaluable piece of South Carolina's past.”
Read more about Mansfield Plantation and this conservation easement in the next issue of the Georgetown Times. The Nature Conservancy contributed to this article.