The 12,000-Acre Forest Preserve at Spring Island has Served as a Benchmark for Eco-Managed Communities in the Lowcountry for Nearly 25 Years
Managed by the Spring Island Trust, the exclusive Okatie resort was the first nature-based community in the United States. It has been used as a model locally by the developers of Palmetto Bluff and a growing number of other sustainable developments across the country.
The view of the island from horseback is simply stunning. Near the marsh, reed grass rustles gently in the breeze. Thousands of shore birds are gathered here to fish and forage at low tide. As we enter the forest the wind brings scents of jasmine and honeysuckle.
A history of the island reads, “Twelve generations of private owners, spanning more than three centuries, have helped to preserve, mold and enhance the land with a gentle passion which is everywhere evident today: along the winding sandy roads, in the dense, primordial Live Oak Forest, in the freshwater ponds which dot the island’s rim, and in the historic tabby ruins of the magnificent Edwards Mansion, which has become symbolic of the island itself.”
It’s easy to imagine how this property garnered the attraction of New York financier Elijah Walker, among others. Walker and his family enjoyed vacationing in the area and a family member stills lives on property.
As you negotiate some of the 32 miles of horseback riding trails that wind their way around the island you will pass through hard-growth forests, marshland and sandy beaches with stunning views.
Broker in charge, John Strother, is particularly proud of the 37 salt, brackish and freshwater ponds and lakes on property. “Sport fishermen love to visit our pristine waters that are stocked with bass, redfish and flounder,” he said.
Hunter members help manage a thriving deer herd and hunt for wild turkey on property each fall. “We also have a partnership with Red Bluff Plantation in Levy, where our members are welcome to hunt quail and pheasant,” Strother said.
The 3,200-acre property is designated as protected wetlands and wildlife space, with a focus on conservation and low-impact development.
“There are only 400 home sites on the entire property,” Strother said. To date, 260 homes have been built, with 140 lots still to be sold and developed. According to the Realtor, landscape ecologists are consulted during new home construction to ensure that strict land management regulations are adhered to.
Owners and guests enjoy additional amenities such as on-site hunting and fishing guides, a sporting clay range and a spectacular golf course.
Spring Island is a great place for an exclusive retreat into the wilderness, where getting unplugged is a lifestyle, not just a piece of mind.
Just a short way up river from Spring Island is the waterfront office of Jason DuBose, certified river pro and charter boat captain, and director of the Outfitters Center at Oldfield Plantation.
“I’m lucky in that I get to spend most of my day on the water as a guide for our owners and their friends,” DuBose said
“Oldfield is host site for the only Orvis Fly Fishing School in the state,” he said. The program is coordinated at Bay Street Outfitters in Beaufort, where staff members have trained to become Orvis certified instructors. On property, ponds stocked with bass, brim and catfish keep the anglers happy.
“Oldfield has a real active charter fishing program, so on any given day I could be anywhere from casting for Red Fish in the flats to trolling for Wahoo or Tuna in the Gulf Stream,” he said.
According to DuBose, a special arrangement with Turkey Hill Plantation in Ridgeland offers owners and guest’s access to 18,000 acres of outdoor adventures including “a sporting clays course, private shooting instruction and some of the best quail hunting in the state.”
“Being a private community, most of our amenities are geared towards our residents and their guests, but we do offer monthly nature seminars with guest speakers that are open to the public,” DuBose said.
Other popular outdoor activities include the popular golf course, tennis instruction and equestrian center, where trail rides, instruction and summer camps are managed by Equestrian Director Jude Dontje.