KRWC Welcomes Charleston Horticultural Society

The Kiawah River Wildlife Conservancy recently hosted the Charleston Horticultural Society for a “walk and talk” covering pocket gardens and the management of Kiawah River’s natural spaces. Jeff Snyder, resident biologist and Chief Environmental Officer, led the group through the community, stopping at several places to discuss how he manages the land to keep Kiawah River as natural as possible. Under Jeff’s care since 2000, the land has been preserved and prepared for Kiawah River living. Jeff, along with the developer, has worked to restore and enhance the Kiawah River environment, demonstrating a commitment to protection and stewardship of the land.

The first stop on the tour was a large live oak surrounded by an orange safety fence. Jeff explained that this tree had been permitted to be removed because it was in such a poor state of health, even though it measures 105” and Charleston County prefers to preserve grand oak trees if they can. But Jeff saw the potential in the tree and, along with the support of The Beach Company, took measures to save the tree. As a result, the tree is now flourishing and will be a focal point in this developing part of the community. Construction will take place safely around the tree and the park and paths will be put in place to highlight this tree and encourage residents to enjoy its beauty for years to come.

Next up was a pond tucked into an undeveloped part of the community. It looks undisturbed, surrounded by spartina grass and birds wading along the banks. But Jeff has put a lot of work into making this pond appear so natural. In 2008, a $2 million wetland restoration was initiated, draining down six interconnected saltwater impoundments, excavating channels in ponds and installing rice gate structures to control water flow. Additional investment was made on natural saltwater vegetation such as black needle rush and spartina for pond buffers. As a result, the saltwater fish and wildlife habitat is thriving today. We continue to partner with DNR to protect and enhance the fish population in surrounding estuaries.

At our next stop at Sea Island Park, we spotted a mature Roseate Spoonbill (identified by its darker pink-colored plumage). Jeff discussed how he has seen an increase in the number of mature Spoonbills in Kiawah River, thanks to the habitat improvements made in the community. Soon, he believes, we’ll start to see nesting Spoonbills—which we currently don’t see in South Carolina. But the creation of more of these habitable environments is likely to encourage just that. 

As we wind through the trails, Jeff points out one of the two eagle nests that are in the community and tells us that the two nests have supported 30 years of baby eagles. He talks about all the “invisible” improvements he makes to promote the healthy habitat: stocking ponds with tilapia and grass carp to keep the water clean and balanced, digging out dikes and deepening the water when time and budget allows.  

Kiawah River has committed to keeping the community at 51% greenspace. For example, several “pocket parks” are located throughout neighborhoods. These are planted with pollinator-attracting plants, but also left natural in spots to preserve the integrity of the land. There are plenty of “travel corridors” that connect people and wildlife to parks and waterways throughout the property. These are largely left as natural as possible—grassy paths, for example, that are maintained for foot and golfcart traffic but not destroyed. 

It was a pleasure to hear Jeff explain what steps he’s taking to foster the natural habitat at Kiawah River and to see his ideas come to fruition. We look forward to seeing what his next project will be.