The Beefield Community, located on James Island in Charleston County, SC, is one of South Carolina’s Gullah/Geechee Settlement Communities and was recognized as a Historic District by the Charleston County Council in 2022. The community is located within the core area of two Civil War battles, one of which was the first engagement of the famous 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. The community was founded on land that was once part of a plantation known as the W.M. Bee tract. Following the Civil War, the enslaved people who worked this land purchased it and formed the Beefield Community. The descendants of these freedmen and women still reside in the community to this day. The Beefield Community Park is a 4-acre property located in the center of the community. Since the community was founded, the property has never been developed, and has been either forest or agricultural land.
In response to explicit plans to develop the property, Battery Island Drive Neighborhood Association (BIDNA) engaged with the conservation community to protect it as a public park. This effort has been driven through BIDNA’s partnership with the Lowcountry Land Trust (LLT), the Historic Charleston Foundation, and the South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust. LLT will purchase the property and then transfer it to BIDNA for the park to serve as a community-owned, community-managed, public space. The park will focus on interpretation of the historic and cultural aspects of the property and community; restoration and management of the native habitat, with an emphasis on traditional Gullah/Geechee land management practices and uses; and the development of community infrastructure such as a community garden and community center. This project will provide vital natural open space to an underserved community threatened by development and will empower the local community to lead the land management process.