ALC’s Mission Extends to Public Places

Since its founding in 1991, Aiken Land Conservancy has, through land purchases as well as donations and conservation easements from landowners, preserved thousands of acres in Aiken County. While these are all very important to our mission, we don’t seek solely to retain open space in the traditional sense. Over the years we have also been actively involved in preserving land that is enjoyed by many as public space.

Langley Pond Park

In 2010, ALC, with funds received through a grant by the South Carolina Conservation Bank, purchased 64 acres adjacent to Langley Pond Park. An agreement was made to lease
the property to Aiken County with a stipulation that it was to be used for passive recreation such as hiking. This additional property, referred to as the upland tract, expanded the park by nearly 25 percent to its current 285 acres.

Affectionately known as “the world’s largest pond” as it is just short of qualifying as a lake, Langley has become a destination for a variety of water sport enthusiasts. Serious rowers come for the 2,000-meter rowing course. It has been the venue for local, regional, and even national rowing events including the annual Augusta Invitational and the USRowing Masters Championship. Langley Pond is also a favorite for those who enjoy water skiing, jet skiing, and paddleboarding. Others just enjoy the large swimming area and sandy beach.

Langley Pond Park offers way more than just water sports. The 2.8-mile Langley Pond Loop Trail, which winds through a cool, wooded route, is enjoyed by all ages and levels. Host to numerous 5K runs, the trail is equally enjoyed by walkers, joggers, dog walkers, and even riders on horseback.

A championship level disc golf course brings one more element to Langley. The 18-hole course is considered to be one of the top courses in the Southeast. In addition to its varying terrain, water holes, and multiple tee locations, the course features a driving range and putting area.

Carolina Bay Preserve

It took six years of fundraising for ALC to raise $600,000 to acquire a 14-acre parcel, just off Whiskey Road, which would be combined with a 10-acre parcel owned by the City of Aiken to establish the Carolina Bay Preserve. The City, County, local businesses, individuals, as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the SC Legacy Trust Fund, all contributed to the effort, and in 2002 the land was purchased. Upon acquiring the land, ALC deeded the property back to the City and a conservation easement was placed on the property ensuring that this rare urban parcel would be preserved for educational purposes and the enjoyment of the public.

A bit of a misnomer, a Carolina Bay is not a true bay, but rather an oval or circular depression which are fairly common in the lower elevations of the Carolinas. Water tends to accumulate in these depressions forming ponds in which a variety of plants and animals, often not typical of the area, thrive.

Due to its urban location and high level of biodiversity, Carolina Bay Preserve is a treasured educational resource. It is amazing that in this location students can observe an entire ecosystem created by the birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and plants living here. A natural wetland, the goal has always been to make minimal improvements to the Carolina Bay Preserve and maintain its natural tranquility. There are two walking trails with gentle terrain, the upper one being .48 miles and the lower .31 miles. An observation deck overlooks the “bay” and the preserve also includes a climbing wall.

Winthrop Field

The Adam Winthrop Polo Field, a 12-acre property in Aiken’s historic horse district, has a long history. In Aiken’s Winter Colony days, the polo field was part of a much larger property owned by New York governor, Averill Harriman. In 1960, Adam Winthrop purchased the 12-acre piece to use as a polo field. In 1993, ALC launched a private fundraising effort to purchase the polo field from the Winthrop Family. ALC bought Winthrop Field in 1998, ensuring that this magnificent open space would not be developed.

Unlike many of our conservation projects, ALC retains ownership of Winthrop Field and thus also bears the expense and work of maintaining the property. Aiken Polo Club, which uses the field for practice, has partnered with ALC to maintain the property which is enjoyed daily by
residents in a variety of ways. The field, which sits between Grace and Mead Avenues, is open during daylight hours to equestrians, pedestrians, and dogs under control.

In 2016, ALC, spearheaded a project to have overhead power lines along Mead Avenue buried in an effort to save the live oaks from excessive pruning. The two-year project was a public/private collaboration between ALC, the City of Aiken, and South Carolina Electric & Gas. The success of this project led the City to undertake a similar project, but on a larger scale — saving the iconic live oaks all along South Boundary Avenue.

Boyd Pond Park

Boyd Pond Park could be considered two parks in one as it offers both active and passive recreational facilities. Nearly half of the property encompassing this county park is owned by ALC. The entire 207-acre parcel in Beech Island was formerly Savannah River Site’s employee recreational facility. In 2008 ALC received a $300,000 grant enabling the purchase of 92 acres of the property, while Aiken County purchased the remaining 115 acres. ALC owns the portion on which the pond is located as well as surrounding land which was never developed for recreational use. ALC leases this tract to the County for passive recreation. The 30-acre pond is a favorite for fishing and canoeing. Hikers enjoy the two-mile trail through the woods while bird watching and geocaching are also popular passive activities in the park.

The remainder of the park serves a multitude of active recreational interests. There are softball fields, a soccer complex, over six miles of mountain bike trails, a boardwalk, boat ramp, multiple picnic areas, outdoor basketball court, sand volleyball court, and a playground.

Due to the popularity of disc golf in the CSRA, a former 9-hole golf course on the property was converted into a challenging 18-hole disc golf course featuring a mix of wooded and open holes. Another welcome addition to the park is the Boyd Observatory with its free programs designed to introduce young visitors to astronomy.

ALC is proud to have played an integral part in the preservation of all of these public places that are enjoyed by so many Aiken County residents. Our work ensures that these properties will remain accessible to the public for generations to come.