Development along South Carolina’s coast threatens the rich historical, cultural, and natural heritage of coastal communities. The Edisto Island Preservation Alliance (EIPA), a group of community leaders and representatives from businesses, churches, and state and county agencies, is dedicated to preserving these resources and maintaining a rural and agricultural way of life, while still promoting growth and prosperity. EIPA developed a management plan that included a variety of strategies to accomplish this mission, including influencing the county comprehensive plan, establishing a National Scenic Byway, and conserving 50 percent of the island’s land.
To aid in accomplishing these goals, EIPA used a GIS-based tool to visualize target areas to conserve, which included existing conserved lands, land at risk for being subdivided into small, easily developable parcels, and land that could help maintain good water quality. The NOAA Office for Coastal Management used participatory mapping techniques to gain community buy-in and empower EIPA members to collect the extensive amounts of data necessary to apply for a National Scenic Byway designation. EIPA reviewed the spatial data for conserved lands to determine the quantity of land already conserved on Edisto Island and the amount of additional acres required to meet the goal of conserving 50 percent of the island.
In 2009, EIPA successfully conserved 50 percent of Edisto Island, and Highway 174 was designated as a National Scenic Byway. The geospatial data gathered using participatory mapping techniques captured the important historical, cultural, and scenic points along the byway. Working through the county’s comprehensive planning process, EIPA was able to abolish zoning that allowed for the subdividing and developing of land without a public process, thereby reducing the threat of unsupervised development on the island.