JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. (WCBD) – The Oakville-Burden Creek on Johns Island will forever be safe from development.

The 90-acre parcel of land, adjacent to the Charleston Executive Airport, was purchased by the Charleston County Aviation Authority in 2021 for $9 million. According to officials, the green space was once slated to become the site of a 400-home development.

It is now permanently protected by a conservation easement placed by the Lowcountry Land Trust. South Carolina Conservation Bank and Charleston County Greenbelt Program both chipped in to fund the easement.

“It provides resilience in terms of flooding. It provides wildlife habitat. There are numerous public benefits associated with the protection of this land,” explained Lowcountry Land Trust President & CEO Ashley Demosthenes.

The land is at the headwaters of the Burden Creek which flows into the Stono River.

“So, not only is it an incredibly important property, in that it determines the transition between suburban and rural, but it’s incredibly important in that its low lying and if its developed it would be very susceptible to flooding,” said Michelle Sinkler, the Special Projects Director for the Open Space Institute.

There’s also a safety component to conserving the land. According to Elliott Summey, the CEO of the Charleston County Aviation Authority, there have been two plane crashes in recent years. One occurred out of LRO in Mount Pleasant and the other happened at JZI.

The forest in its natural state, serves as a buffer for the airport.

“Where that plane crashed, had that development been allowed, it would’ve landed on a potential home site there. We’re cognizant of that so we wanted to protect not only our airfield and our interest but also the flying public and certainly our neighbors,” Summey said.

Summey said protecting the land will allow them to extend the airport runway from 5,000 feet to 7,000 feet.