GOOD NEWS: Magnolia Gardens to undergo $3.2 million habitat restoration

Along the Ashley River at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, outside Charleston, S.C.

Staff reports  | Ducks Unlimited has received a $1 million federal grant to launch a habitat enhancement and restoration project at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, according to a press release. The goal is to improve the flow of water through the various impoundments and ponds on the 500-acre Magnolia property to raise the diversity of plants and animals.

Funding from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) will be combined with $2.2 million in matching funds from federal, non-profit, state and private sources, said James A. Rader, manager of conservation programs in Ducks Unlimited’s South Atlantic Field Office in Charleston. The first phase of the two-year project will begin in the spring.

The project will enhance Magnolia’s historic tidal rice field by restoring the function of the inland rice field complex, which includes the Audubon Swamp Garden, Rader said.

“The improvements will enhance breeding habitat as well as foraging habitat for species closely associated with the rookery,” he said. “The inland rice field project will also increase management capabilities by providing independent flooding, draining and circulation of each and increase connectivity between the inland and tidal systems.”

Winslow Hastie, a member of the Drayton-Hastie family that has owned Magnolia since 1676, said the attraction looked forward to working with Ducks Unlimited to continue the family’s stewardship of the plantation.

“We are excited about the potential this project holds to improve the wildlife habitat at Magnolia for the enjoyment of the people who visit our gardens and for the benefit of Lowcountry residents,” he said.

Before collaborating with Ducks Unlimited on the NAWCA grant, Magnolia began improvements to the wildlife habitat in the 60-acre Audubon Swamp Garden and the 100-acre water impoundment and wildlife refuge along the Ashley River. Magnolia’s ecologist Stacy Turner manages this work. It involves clearing vegetation from the swamp garden, and in the impoundment burning cattails, a fast-growing plant, and introducing native plants.

Copyrighted photo by Michael Kaynard.

The grant, Turner said, will hasten the work he’s done so far. An engineering assessment next spring will identify the scope of work. Rainwater flowing on the Magnolia property fills the Ravenswood Pond. From there water travels to the swamp garden, then to the impoundment and finally to the Ashley River. Over time culverts that direct water under road beds and dikes have become clogged with vegetation and sediment. These blockages prevent proper management and have led to the degradation of habitat by allowing an overgrowth of vegetation. To solve this problem, Turner explained, small culverts will be replaced with larger ones and embankments will be enhanced.

Turner has plans to reclaim overgrown areas and continue adding native plants, including powdery alligator flag, an aquatic plant that attracts butterflies. Enhancing the flow and management capacity will increase sources of food to diversify the population of wading and migratory birds and waterfowl. When that happens river otters, mink and marsh rabbits will be lured back to the swamp, he added.

“The signing of this agreement is the culmination of months of planning,” said Magnolia Plantation and Gardens Executive Director Tom Johnson.  “ am so excited that Magnolia will receive this support from Ducks Unlimited to enhance the wildlife not only at Magnolia but also in the surrounding area. This is certainly the largest project I’ve ever done in my career that will have wide-ranging impact for years to come.”

In other good news:

Sister city.  The city of Charleston has agreed in principle to become a sister city with Panama City, Panama, according to Charleston Sister Cities International.  The agreement is expected to expand commercial activities, boost trade, increase cultural development and grow jobs.

O’Rourke honored.  Hats off to outgoing Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission Executive Director Tom O’Rourke, who was recently distinguished as a “Legend in the Field” of park and recreation administrators by a national parks organization.

Piccolo Spoleto applications.  If you want to participate in next year’s Piccolo Spoleto Festival, you now can apply to take part.  Applications are due Dec. 8, 2017.  Click here for more.

Literary Festival Weekend.  Nov. 2-5 has been declared as Charleston to Charleston Literary Festival Weekend as the Charleston Library Society has partnered with the Charleston Trust to bring a new literary festival to the area.  Programming will range from events on Shakespeare and feminism to the Charleston Renaissance.  Learn more.


One Comment

  1. Christine Fusco says:

    How will this effect the current waterfowl population and will this reduce the nesting for the rookery of the Herons, Egrets, Anhingas, etc? Will the area be open to visitors?
    This is an amazingly beautiful plantation to frequent.
    Thank you.