Winthrop Polo Field’s Live Oaks Protected Against Future Tree Trimming

For Immediate Release
Contact: Katie Roth, Executive Director

(July 23, 2018) Aiken Land Conservancy (ALC) proudly announced the power lines along Mead Avenue of Winthrop Polo Field are now buried underground, after two years of a public/private partnership with South Carolina Electric & Gas Company (SCE&G) and the City of Aiken. Burying the power lines will protect the magnificent live oaks that line Mead Avenue from the periodic harsh pruning needed to clear potential obstructions of the over-ground lines and prevent power outages.

“Whenever SCE&G’s contractors pruned the live oaks around the over-ground power lines,” says Katie Roth, the executive director of the Aiken Land Conservancy, “we and the neighbors were shocked at how butchered those grand trees looked after that effort.”

Aiken Land Conservancy discovered that SCE&G offers a funding share program to cities to underground power lines, a program that has been used by other cities such as Savannah and Mount Pleasant. Past ALC president Larry Comegys spearheaded the effort to bring SCE&G and City of Aiken together in 2016 to begin discussing possibilities. “The City and SCE&G were excited by and committed to the project from the outset,” says Comegys.

“We know how critical the city’s grand trees are to preserving its history and character and how important it is to protect them for future generations, so we wanted to be the catalyst that could make undergrounding power lines a reality,” says Comegys. “It is not only an aesthetic improvement, it will increase the reliability of the power lines in storms where we would normally lose power. It will also allow the tree canopies to start filling in.”

The program offered by SCE&G is called the Non-Standard Service Fund (NSSF). Funds are credited into the NSSF each year based on a percentage of SCE&G’s electric revenue within the City. The City can access those funds for undergrounding projects by providing a dollar for dollar match. The Aiken Land Conservancy, through the generous donation of Don and Sandy Nicolaisen, owners of the historic Clark Barn adjacent to the field (which is also protected by a conservation easement held by the Land Conservancy), paid half of the City’s matching amount for the project. The other costs for moving the power sources on the polo field to properly irrigate the field was borne by the Land Conservancy.

Winthrop Field, which was purchased by the Aiken Land Conservancy in 1998 to save it from future development, continues to be an urban haven in the historic equestrian district for the public, dog-walkers, equestrians, and polo players to this day.

The Aiken Land Conservancy and the City, under the leadership of Mayor Rick Osbon, are partnering in the development of an overall tree program to identify ways to improve the care and maintenance of city trees in parkways, along city rights-of-way, and other public places.

About Aiken Land Conservancy

Aiken Land Conservancy is a not-for-profit, §501(c)(3) organization dedicated to protecting and preserving Aiken’s unique natural resources. For more information, visit


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A new office, a new milestone, and a chance to express our gratitude

from Joanna Dunn Samson, President of the Board of Trustees

The Aiken Land Conservancy is proud to announce our new office location at 300 Park Avenue in Aiken, which has been made possible by the generous donation of two long-time supporters.

The opening of a bricks and mortar office is an important benchmark in our development. Not only does it provide a place to conduct organizational business and meet with potential donors and supporters, the office in the handsome, renovated historic building at the corner of Fairfield and Park will increase our visibility and within the community. Please drop by when you are in the neighborhood.

The mission of the Aiken Land Conservancy is to protect Aiken’s unique character and cherished natural resources—to protect the places that make Aiken such a special place to live, work and raise a family. Since it was founded in 1990, the Land Conservancy has protected close to 3,500 acres in the city and the county.

ALC Leadership

Aiken Land Conservancy owes our strength and success as a non-profit organization to those who have served on the board since it was founded.

Our past Presidents were founders and innovators who believed in the value of conservation, who understood that once those natural and historic places we cherish are gone—they are gone forever. We and the citizens of Aiken owe a great deal of gratitude to those leaders.

My immediate predecessor, Larry Comegys, served as president of the board for four years (2012-2016). He was instrumental in shaping ALC into an organization that addresses the changing attitudes and increasing responsibilities of modern-day conservation organizations.

Under Larry’s leadership, ALC attained national accreditation from the Land Trust Alliance, a prestigious designation awarded only to land trusts with the rigorous organizational and financial practices necessary to ensure public trust and donor confidence.

In addition to shepherding the national accreditation process, Larry also led the organization in these exciting initiatives:

  • Unveiled a new, modern logo design for Aiken Land Conservancy
  • Launched the Aiken Young Conservationist Program
  • Started two new ALC fundraisers: the popular Clays for Conservation and the Katydid Signature CDE Brunch fundraiser
  • Created an Anniversary Fund for the payment of costs associated with land protection
  • Was instrumental in working with SCE&G and the City to commence the undergrounding of selected City power lines
  • Added over 450 acres of protected land to ALC’s portfolio

Larry’s term with Aiken Land Conservancy expired in 2016. He remains an active participant on the Advisory Committee.

Our current Board of Trustees are an equally dedicated group of people who bring their various skills to bear in protecting the things you love about Aiken. They are Steen Smith (Vice President), Jim Cunningham (Treasurer), Frampton Toole, Wilkins Byrd, Thomas Coleman, Lisa Darden, Kirk Henckels, Nancy Henze, Rob Johnston, and Lydia Rose.

I urge you to take a moment to read their bios on our website, Their efforts are tireless and professional and make my job seem almost effortless.

Finally, the day-to-day work of ALC could not be accomplished without our extraordinary Executive Director, Katie Roth, and our highly accomplished Administrator, Janet DePrince.

Katie manages to maneuver through all these personalities and develop our various initiatives with intelligence and grace. Her judgment is impeccable.

Janet’s steady attention to our organizational and financial detail is nothing short of amazing. I sleep better at night knowing that she is watching the administrative challenges of our ever-growing organization.

ALC Today

Today, the Aiken Land Conservancy does so much more than just protect tracts of land.  We are partnering with the City to protect our magnificent trees, restore our parkways, and create a voluntary conservation program for Shaw’s Creek, an important source of drinking water for the City.

In addition, through our Edisto River initiative, we are working to protect the headwaters of the Edisto River, the longest unimpeded blackwater river in the country, from the ravages of unsustainable agricultural and logging practices and unmonitored water withdrawal.

Our work would not be possible without your support and commitment. In the words of G.T. Smith:

“Donors don’t give to institutions. They invest in ideas and people in whom they believe.”

Thank you for investing in protecting our natural and historic treasures and for believing in the Aiken Land Conservancy.


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