EC Land Trust raising money to buy shrimp dock

Moultrie News
By Sully Witte
The East Cooper Land Trust is doing everything possible to pool together enough resources from the community to purchase the Wando Dock, according to executive director Catherine Main. The trust’s mission is to enhance and save the communities natural and scenic character and they’ll need local donations to support their efforts for this acquisition and efforts to save the fishing community, farms, Gullah communities, and natural areas.

Save Shem Creek Corp. (SSCC), however will not be supporting these initial efforts. Jimmy Bagwell, officer and spokesman for SSCC explained to the Moultrie News that he cannot commit SSCC to raising any amount until the East Cooper Land trust can get an agreement with the property owners to purchase the property. He said if that happens he would recommend to the board that they do everything possible to help the ECLT reach the goal. “Until they have an agreement with the sellers, we will not ask people to contribute financially,” Bagwell said. “I couldn’t commit to raising $1 million. That had to be a board effort.”

Although the SSCC website acknowledges that the fleet faces some long-term issues that need to be addressed and solved, “namely dock space, a source of ice on the creek, and a processing and storage facility” Bagwell said proposing an offer the buy the Wando Docks on Shem Creek was the land trust’s initiative.

“We are not in that business. Our mission is to help educate the pubic about certain events and whats going on in town. We can’t ask people for money unless we know what details and know whats going to be done,” he said.

“No one more than save Shem Creek wants to see this property retained for use by the seafood industry.” Bagwell added that he personally spoke to the Tarvin Family that Runs Tarvin’s seafood out of the facility and relayed to them that SSCC was very much interested in this property staying in seafood industry and not in any other direction.

In the meantime, Mount Pleasant Mayor will Haynie has met with Main to put their heads together to see what can be done. “We are not casual observers of this, but the law does not allow us to donate taxpayer funds to a non-profit so that they can own property,” he explained.

“The protection of the shrimping fleet on Shem creek was mentioned specifically in my first State of Town Address in June. As for the Wando Shrimp Dock in particular, that is someone’s private property an the timing an amount of any sale is solely within their purview and their right. The town in a reactive mode on that one parcel at this point,” Haynie said. “After having spent in the neighborhood of $10 million across the creek to help provide dockage for the shrimp boats and access for the public, we’d like the public to know our past actions show our commitment to the shrimping fleet and to Shem Creek and at this point it is a council decision as to what we can do and how we can do that in regards to this particular shrimp dock.”

Main said the trust understands the seller and the associated trust are looking at all of their options. “If they choose to accept our offer then the land will be forever protected for use by the seafood industry. As opposed to protection from zoning, which can be changed, a conservation easement permanently protects land,” she said. “They deserve to get a fair market price for the land and I want to make sure they know we respect that.”

This is one of three parcels remaining for the seafood industry on Shem Creek and it is the largest and most promising for sustaining our local access to seafood.

Wando Dock project timeline

East Cooper Land Trust began following the project in 2015

April 26, 2018 – met with listing agent and was informed property was for sale

May 4, 2018 – met with Mayor Haynie in his office to discuss the importance of this property, the urgency, and request that the town be a partner and contributor.

May 10, 2018 – met with Jimmy Bagwell, the head of Save Shem Creek in his office to discuss the importance of this property, the urgency, and request that Save Shem Creek be a partner and contributor.

• The East Cooper land Trust is actively working on application submittals for the SC Conservation Bank and the Charleston County Greenbelt Program and have made a good offer to the sellers.

• The sellers are ready to sell and are considering a number of offers.

• We are moving forward with or without a commitment from the Town or Save Shem Creek.

• This project is very important to the fishing community, the Mount Pleasant community, and the state of South Carolina as a whole as our access to local seafood.

• There are only 9 working waterfronts left in the state and most are struggling. Shem Creek is one of the largest producing local seafood.

• Yes, we are in the middle of a slow shrimping season, but The DNR assures us that there are plenty of fish in the sea.

• With some support from the community and permanent access to land, the Seafood Industry can be revitalized.

In 1981, the state’s office of Ocean and Costal Resource Management and the town co-wrote a Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) for the protection of Shem Creek. It was written eight years before the Boatyard was developed as a residential neighborhood. It is a planning initiative to protect water-dependant uses on Shem Creek, which is what the Wando dock and facilities are. But the plan also allows for and protects special exceptions that are not water dependant, like a dock or pier over the water so restaurants can serve food.

The 1981 management plan was developed to recognize the shrimp fleet and the commercial fishing industry as being a resource of statewide significance that is deserving of a guarantee of space within which to effectively operate and, if need be, to expand.

The SAMP sought to preserve these commercial fishing facilities, and to create a Marine Industrial District ‘to develop and reserve land and waterfront locations for industries and services which are dependent on a waterfront location.’

“We want to permanently protect land for use for the fishing industry. The fishermen for years have not known from month to month whether they will have a place to keep their boat. Fishermen will know they will always have a place to be able to use,” Main said.

Justin Craig, chairman of the Board of the East Cooper Land Trust, said “Our local seafood industry and your access to local seafood both rely on places like the Wando Dock on Shem Creek, places that are under pressure from development and the explosive growth we are all experiencing here in Mount Pleasant. Do you believe our local seafood industry can compete financially with these competing development interests? Are you OK with losing your access to local seafood? If your answer is no, please support the East Cooper Land Trust in our effort to purchase the Wando Dock so we can permanently protect our local seafood industry and give them the security to invest in their business. Only our community and your support can ensure access to local seafood, now and forever.”

If you would like to make a pledge toward the purchase of Wando Dock, contingent on the offer being accepted, fill out the form on the website at eastcooperland.org/workingwaterfront.

Commentary: Turn “Save Shem Creek” slogan into action

Post and Courier
By Cheryll Woods-Flowers

Mount Pleasant elected leaders have unique opportunities to fulfill their promise to “Save Shem Creek,” but the opportunities will sail away if they don’t act quickly. Three critical actions that will keep this town-described “iconic” treasure are in play: the renourishment and preservation of Crab Bank, the potential loss of critical docks for shrimp boats, and an opportunity to put together a master plan for Shem Creek to address safety, zoning, hurricane impacts to existing structures and keeping Shem Creek a working creek.

The Wando docks are up for sale. There is an effort to forever preserve those docks for the fishing and shrimping industry that has not gotten much attention from the town. Once this property is sold, we could see more residential development that would further encroach on the elements that make Shem Creek a working creek — one of the things that makes Shem Creek special. Our working creek has been seen on the covers of Southern Living and many other well-known publications. It is highly unlikely that pictures will be taken of this special part of the Charleston area if the boats and activity that revolve around them are gone.

Much has been written about Crab Bank’s importance to the bird population and its significance to the East Coast. It is unquestionably one of the East Coast’s most important wildlife spots, providing an important nesting area for thousands of birds. Another thing that makes Crab Bank important is the buffer that it gives to Shem Creek and homes on Mount Pleasant’s shore from wakes generated by boats in Charleston Harbor. Maybe just as important is the part that Crab Bank plays in the beauty of the Shem Creek area. I have heard it said that without Crab Bank, the beautiful birds that we all enjoy at the Shem Creek park would go away. Mount Pleasant needs to do whatever is necessary to make sure that Crab Bank continues to exist.

The third opportunity is the plan that the Shem Creek Task Force has been working on. Appointed in 2016, I have chaired this effort with about a dozen dedicated, passionate stakeholders who have spent countless hours to make sure that Shem Creek remains the special place that we all love. The purpose of the Shem Creek Task Force was to develop recommendations to preserve and promote the unique history, nature and economy of the Shem Creek Study Area.

We looked at a large number of issues but the overwhelming majority of the task force noted in their conclusions that the uses in and around the creek should be complementary to the creek’s character, and that since Shem Creek has historically been a working creek its status as such should be maintained. The task force agreed that the shrimping and fishing fleet’s presence in Shem Creek should be preserved. Recreational and business uses in the creek could and should be allowed, but not at the expense of one another. A task force subcommittee was charged with reviewing qualification responses and making recommendations to the elected body. In a letter to Town Council, the task force asked the mayor and Town Council to appropriate $125,000 in addition to the $50,000 already appropriated to fund the study and long-term plan for the creek. Our request has not been considered yet.

The bottom line is this: The town has spent millions of dollars — more than $10 million I think — to acquire property for Shem Creek Park and build all of the infrastructure. Who will care about spending time there if we lose some of the most important parts of the park? It is not enough to say that we want to “Save Shem Creek.” We need to put those words into bold action to show that we really believe it is important. Opportunities go away. So do iconic places.

Cheryll Woods-Flowers is a former mayor of Mount Pleasant.

East Cooper Land Trust raising funds to preserve Shem Creek shrimp dock

Count on 2 NEWS By Libba Holland

MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCBD) — One of the few places shrimpers can dock their boats on Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant is up for sale, and some worry it may ultimately affect Charleston’s local seafood industry.

Cindy Tarvin runs Tarvin Seafood, Inc.out of the Wando Dock property selling local seafood to restaurants and those who stop in.

“This particular fish house is the only one that still operates like a traditional fish house between McClellanville and Cherry Point. So, it’s import to those of us that fish out of here,” Tarvin said.

Now, the Wando Dock property is up for sale, and the future of her business is murky.

“There’s the potential any buyer would want to keep it to support the fishing community. I just don’t know whether that’s the case,” Tarvin said.

The fear is that a new owner may not allow shrimp boats to stay along the dock, and there are not many other spaces available. The boats may have to leave town.

East Cooper Land Trust is trying to purchase the property, but the group needs the money to do so.

“The land owners have every right to get every penny out of it that they have in it and that its worth, but we just need to find a way to raise that money so that we can compete with other people that maybe want to keep it for private use,” said East Cooper Land Trust’s Executive Director Catherine Main.

The Trust’s mission through this project is to preserve the character of the Mount Pleasant fishing industry.

“There are only 9 working waterfronts left in South Carolina and this is the largest,” said Main.

Anyone who wants to make a pledge and donate to the cause, you can do so on the East Cooper Land Trust website.

“If we really want to have access to local seafood here in our state, then we need support projects like this,” Main said.

Tarvin says she supports the trust’s mission to save the dock, she also wants people to know–she’s supportive of the family who currently owns it.

“I think it’s well understood that the dock is important to the fishing community. I think it’s also important to understand that it is privately owned and we are not at war with the owners. We want what’s best for them and best for us, as well,” she said.

OpEd – Wando Dock – Public Benefit vs. Private Use

Moultrie News
by Catherine Main
I thought there was total community support for saving the local seafood industry, but I now know there are some residents who are opposed to its existence and want the land to have a private use – a result they think will keep from disrupting the surrounding residential community. Shem Creek has always been industrial and the residences have slowly encroached upon the seafood industrial use. The working waterfront was there first!

East Cooper Land Trust’s vision is to keep the entire Wando Dock parcel for public benefit so the seafood industry has a fighting chance. They need adequate facilities and dockage to have long-term sustainability. If a portion of the property is made private and dockage for the shrimp boats gets converted to dockage for pleasure boats, this would encumber an already struggling seafood industry. Do we want to look back in 40 years and wish we had done something to save it?

The Town of Mount Pleasant has some dockage for shrimp boats across the creek, but it is only enough for about 4 shrimp boats and the water there is shallow, making it hard for some of the boats to tie up there. Losing dock space would limit how many commercial vessels could use the creek – limiting the public’s access to local seafood. There really is nowhere else in Mount Pleasant for them to go. And Mount Pleasant has one of the last seafood industrial waterfronts in Charleston County and the State of South Carolina.

East Cooper Land Trust enlisted a nationally known Landscape Architect, Dennis Carmichael to draw our vision of what this property could look like and how it could best be used. The use would be very similar to what it is today with plenty of room for processing, freezers, and the equipment the seafood industry needs to survive.

(Caption for Drawings:)

East Cooper Land Trusts vision of Wando Dock property

• Facilities to support all local fisherman

• Public benefit of sustainable local seafood source

• Improved dockage, offloading, processing, freezer storage, and wholesale market

• Separate facilities for a retail market so public can buy seafood at dockside

• Area for peeler crabs, oysters, clams and more

• Land will be protected forever under a conservation easement allowing these uses.

We have spoken to Charleston County about partnering with us on a grant submission to make these facility and dock improvements and they are in favor.

The landowners of this property have been in the seafood business for over 50 years and we assume have a desire to keep the industry afloat, they also have a right to get a fair market price for the land. It is our hope that we can raise the money through a collaboration of groups and individuals working together to save the seafood industry.

We are hosting a rally on Monday from 6-8 pm at the public boardwalk of Shem Creek Park. Come out and show your support of Local Seafood! Add your name to a support letter and/or make a pledge to contribute to the land acquisition of Wando Dock. Anyone who makes a pledge by tomorrow at 8 pm will be eligible for prizes including dinner for two at ACME Lowcountry Kitchen. Please join us in saving land for local seafood!

Pledge forms are available on our website: eastcooperland.org or contact me to get involved at Catherine@eastcooperland.org or 843-224-1849.

Many pushing to save Shem Creek shrimpers

ABC4 NEWS
by Caroline Balchunas
Shem Creek has long stood as a hub for local shrimpers, but as more restaurants move in more shrimpers have been pushed out.

There’s talk the Wando dock, one of the last remaining docks, is up for sale. Many people worry about what a sale would mean for the shrimpers currently docked there. Space on Shem Creek is already limited and expensive.

Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie is rallying for the remaining shrimping fleet. On Monday, the town will host a special meeting with council members to discuss a plan of action. The East Cooper Land Trust is also actively seeking the funding to purchase and preserve the dock.

Shrimp trawlers are a beloved part of the Shem Creek landscape, the epitome of rustic charm.

Geechie Seafood leases one of the few docks left. Manager Kevin Suggs said there’s not much room for shrimpers among the kayaks, restaurants and yachts.

“Here? No, no [there’s] no space at all,” Suggs said. “A temporary spot for a day or two, yeah, but not for a whole season or nothing.”

Suggs said he’s heard chatter about the Wando dock’s potential sale, but isn’t sure if it means the dock and shrimpers will have to go. There’s usually about five boats tied up there. There’s no “for sale” sign outside the property and those working inside would not comment on the matter.

“If someone does buy and if they decide to turn it into something else that will obviously limit dock space,” he said. “I don’t know how many spots across the creek the town owns, they could fit a few more boats over there.”

Suggs said either way, it won’t affect his business, it’s just a sign they’re located in just the right spot.

“With more people coming that’s just more business but then again, it’s kind of a double-edged sword, higher property, but more business,” said Suggs.

Editorial: Protect Shem Creek’s shrimpers

Post and Courier
By Andrew Whitaker/Staff
Without its shrimp boat fleet, Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant would be a different kind of place. But the number of boats has been dwindling for decades, and the loss of the dock that formerly housed the Wando Shrimp Co. could be a tipping point.

The Wando dock is up for sale. And unless a nonprofit buyer such as the East Cooper Land Trust or even the town of Mount Pleasant is able to scoop up the property, it could be redeveloped in a way that would push out a few more of the remaining shrimpers in the creek.

That would be a shame. Shem Creek and the nearby Old Village form the unofficial heart of Mount Pleasant. A grassroots effort to protect that area from over-development grew into a sea change in the town’s politics over the past few years.

Shem Creek is an important place with deep community history. It’s well worth saving.

And the shrimp boats that still dock in the creek are more than just a scenic backdrop. They’re an endangered connection to the Lowcountry’s priceless marine resources. They’re an embattled source of local seafood increasingly facing competition from lower-quality imports. They’re sources of jobs and symbols of family legacies.

Those boats and their crews need space not just to dock but to refuel, load ice, and process and sell their catches. The Wando dock is one of the most important remaining properties for protecting Shem Creek’s shrimpers.

According to Post and Courier reporter Bo Petersen, the East Cooper Land Trust is exploring the possibility of buying the property. But with a price tag in the millions of dollars, it could prove difficult to come up with the money quickly enough to beat out private bidders.

“If we do not act now to permanently protect land along our industrial waterfronts, we are at risk of losing access to local seafood in our state,” the land trust said in statement asking for community support in fundraising. “In the blink of an eye, it could be gone.”

Mount Pleasant officials have also explored the possibility of buying the property, but it’s unclear how such a purchase would work or where the town would come up with the money.

It’s not just a problem for Shem Creek either. Commercial waterfronts across the Lowcountry and up and down the East Coast face increasing pressure from redevelopment. Communities need to band together to support local fishing and protect the longstanding lifestyles that make places like Shem Creek so special.

Of course, it’s also possible that a private buyer for the Wando dock could develop the land in a way that preserves its current functions. Certainly, any developer sensitive to the surrounding community would quickly realize how much Shem Creek’s shrimping industry means to Mount Pleasant residents and the rest of the Charleston area.

After all, without the shrimp boats, it wouldn’t be the same place.

Shem Creek’s Wando dock up for sale, one of last for area shrimp boats

Post and Courier
By Bo Peterson

MOUNT PLEASANT — One of Shem Creek’s last remaining shrimp boat docks is quietly up for sale. The loss of the Wando dock could be the tipping point for the vanishing fleet in the creek made famous by its hanging nets.

The property holding the former Wando Seafood Company at the lip of the creek is being privately shopped and has bidders, several sources confirmed to The Post and Courier. The owner and the real estate company did not want to comment when asked.

The East Cooper Land Trust is launching a frantic fundraising drive to buy and preserve the dock for the shrinking shrimping fleet. But the cost is steep.

Today, Shem Creek has become a mix of upscale residences, waterfront restaurants and water sports businesses, one by one edging out the shrimp boats. The shrimpers and the trust worry that whoever buys the Wando dock will want to redevelop it for that new market.

Losing it could mean those boats would have nowhere else to tie off, much less sell their shrimp. It also could put more development pressure on the owners of the other two.

The loss would leave only the tiny Geechie Seafood dock and the Simmons Marina for shrimpers, as well as a town-built dock that many shrimpers say they can’t afford. James “Bubba” Simmons already has put his property up for sale once before pulling back. Simmons could not be reached for comment Friday.

The trust is seeking partners to bid on the Wando property. Director Catherine Main would say only that the price is in the millions. The trust would put a conservation easement on it and likely turn it over to a partner to run, she said.

“Our interest is to keep the seafood industry there into the future. The shrimpers can’t afford to pay the money to buy it,” she said. “It’s the first industry there was in Mount Pleasant. It made Mount Pleasant. In the blink of an eye, it could be gone.”

Tarvin Seafood leases the property month to month, said co-owner Cindy Tarvin.

“It’s no secret that everybody (in Shem Creek) is leasing month-to-month and everybody worries about dock space no matter where they tie up,” she said. “We’re hopeful (the Wando sale) works out to everyone’s advantage, no matter what happens.”

Commercial fishing docks are disappearing across the state because of development pressures on the lucrative waterfront properties.

The dock space is critical for offloading, fueling, taking on ice and provisions, and conducting general maintenance, said Julie Davis, the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium living marine resources specialist who has studied the issue.

“Shrimp boats are not something you can put on a trailer and carry with you, so the need for dock space is essential,” she said. “Whether we were in Murrell’s Inlet, Shem Creek, Port Royal or McClellanville, this is the story we heard.”

The trust also is part of a McClellanville group hoping to negotiate land trusts for that town’s iconic shrimp docks.

“This isn’t just an issue for Shem Creek,” Main said. “This is an issue for the state of South Carolina.”

The trust has approached several groups for support with the Wando dock purchase, including the town of Mount Pleasant. Town Council discussed it in closed session earlier this week, but the town has neither a process or designated funding to buy properties such as the dock, said Finance Committee Chairman Tom O’Rourke.

The Finance Committee is scheduled to discuss creating such a process next month, he added.

“I can promise you the Wando dock is not the only parcel of land the town has been approached to purchase. Personally, I think every one we have in front of us has merit,” O’Rourke said. “Buying land is a tool toward accomplishing a lot of the goals we have for our town. But we’re not there today.”

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