Agreement Would Protect Historic Morris Island (SC)

Charleston, SC, 2/2/2006 – The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national non-profit private land conservation organization with an office in Charleston, SC, today announced it has reached an agreement with Ginn Clubs & Resorts for the purchase of Morris Island. On Tuesday, Ginn Clubs & Resorts purchased the property for $6.8 million from an affiliate of the Yaschik Development Company. Ginn Clubs & Resorts has agreed to sell Morris Island to TPL for $4.5 million, which is $2.3 million less than its cost. In addition to the reduced sales price, Ginn Clubs & Resorts will also donate $500,000 for future planning and passive recreational amenities on the island.

The terms of the agreement provide a clear path to the preservation of Morris Island, a goal of conservation and historic preservation leaders for years. Any future development on the island will be prohibited. And public access and passive enjoyment of the island, balanced with the protection of the Island’s significant natural and historic features, will be assured. The first step, funded by Bobby Ginn, will pay for a thorough historical and archaeological assessment of the Island. Once TPL raises the $4.5 million purchase price called for in the agreement, this important national treasure will be preserved forever for all citizens to enjoy as a historic and recreational venue.

“This is truly an amazing day for the many people and organizations that have been working for so long for the preservation of Morris Island,” says David Agnew, Chair of TPL’s South Carolina Advisory Council. “Morris Island is well-known for its historic attributes but it is also part of one of the largest undeveloped estuaries on the East Coast and a critical habitat for numerous migratory birds and several endangered species. Bobby Ginn has provided us with a generous and extraordinary opportunity, but our work is now just beginning. In the days ahead, we will be focused on assembling the necessary $4.5 million to buy the land from The Ginn Company.”

“There has been a great deal of discussion and concern about the future of Morris Island these past few years. We believed there was a solution that would protect Morris Island and be fair to the owners of the land. From Mayor Riley to Bobby Ginn to TPL, we were all determined to find that solution. Bobby Ginn and his company’s generosity in giving this community a chance to preserve Morris Island is an important gift. I believe we all owe Mr. Ginn tremendous gratitude for making this moment possible,” added Agnew.

Preserving Morris Island has been the subject of numerous news articles and editorials, one written by Charleston’s mayor, Joseph. P. Riley, Jr. who in one editorial called on government and community leaders to move quickly for preservation of Morris Island “as we may not be offered another chance to secure such an important local and national treasure.”

“Considering what the island means to Charleston and her surrounding communities, Morris Island has to be preserved – ideally publicly owned and in its natural state,” Mayor Riley said today. “Bobby Ginn has given us a golden opportunity to make good on our promise to save the island. I thank Bobby Ginn for his vision and his generosity. And I applaud the Trust for Public Land’s leadership in helping make this agreement a reality. I’m confident that with TPL’s help, and the help of the good people of Charleston, your elected officials, and organizations like the Civil War Preservation Trust, we will raise the money needed to preserve Morris Island for future generations. I have already spoken with a number of potential donors and the positive response has been overwhelming. We are going to make this happen.”

Under the agreement announced today, The Trust for Public Land will have one year to raise an estimated $4.5 million dollars for the purchase of the Island. The organization plans to launch a major capital campaign, hoping to attract both public and private contributions. TPL will work closely with local and state entities, including the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and others, to seek local, state, and federal funding. Also, in addition to the bargain sale price, Mr. Ginn will donate an additional $500,000 from the proceeds that will fund expenses related to the preservation of Morris Island. The first of these monies will fund a thorough historical and archaeological assessment of the island.

“The citizens of Charleston want to help preserve Morris Island,” says Slade Gleaton, South Carolina state director for The Trust for Public Land. “Now we have our chance. Over the next several months, we will call upon local, state and federal agencies for their financial support, but we will also ask private citizens to contribute. Morris Island is a significant and visible reminder of our history as an important American community; and as a community, we are going to save it. Let’s celebrate this great moment and then get to work.”

About Morris Island: Morris Island is a 126 acre uninhabited barrier island in Charleston Harbor, accessible only by boat. The island lies in the outer reaches of the harbor, and was thus a strategic location during the Civil War.

The island was heavily fortified to defend the harbor, with the fortifications centered on Fort Wagner. It was the scene of heavy fighting during the Siege of Charleston, and is perhaps best known today as the scene of the last charge of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, an African-American regiment. The regiment and its final charge were immortalized in the film Glory.

In the earliest charts of the region, what is now Morris Island was actually three separate islands – Middle Bay Island, Morrison Island, and Cummings Point. Another name associated with the island in the 1700s was Coffin Island. This name may have been linked to the use of the island as a burial ground for sick and contagious passengers arriving by ship. The name would have well suited the island during the Civil War when hundreds of soldiers, both North and South, were buried there. Around 1800 the shallow inlets were filled in and formed one long island that became known as Morris Island.

About TPL: The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national private non-profit land conservation organization that works to conserve land and historic landmarks for people. We have a national presence, with 55 offices, over 400 employees, and more than 550 volunteers working passionately to accomplish our mission. Since its inception in 1972, TPL has completed 3,011 projects in 43 states, protecting over 2 million acres of land with a fair market value (FMV) of more than $4 billion. In South Carolina alone, TPL has helped protect more than 15,000 acres. For more information, see