On South Carolina's steamy Johns Island is a fern-draped, centuries-old live oak that has withstood hurricanes, the creation of the United States and every government shutdown to date.
But conservationists worry that the tree known as the Angel Oak could fall victim to encroaching development. They've got two months to come up with enough money to buy the land where it has stood for more than 400 years.
The tree is a beloved local landmark that city officials say draws as many as 50,000 tourists each year. Situated in a small park a short drive south from Charleston, the oak features massive, gnarled limbs that sweep the ground; its expansive canopy covers some 17,000 square feet.
The park is near a 34-acre parcel of land currently permitted for high-density commercial and residential use, with plans already in the works to develop half of the space for a residential community. The Lowcountry Open Land Trust has until Nov. 21 to raise a total of $3.6 million to purchase the other half from the credit union that owns it.
Even if the trust can't buy the parcel, any construction there wouldn't actually touch the Angel Oak itself. But the group's executive director, Elizabeth Hagood, says multifamily housing and commercial development would harm the tree's shallow and far-reaching root system.
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