In the eyes of the Aiken County Open Land Trust, it's time to focus on a certain aspect of land conservation in our county.
A new committee of the land trust, the Aiken County Equestrian Alliance, is being formed to address the county's historic and thriving equestrian industry.
Don't be fooled, this committee doesn't just affect horse people. It invites representatives from Aiken's equestrian community and combines real estate interest, conservationists and developers who are closely tied to the interests of the equestrian lands.
The alliance is interested in identifying the lands that are vital to keeping the tradition of this sport in Aiken and preserving the lands that support the tradition. The goal is to work with the landowners and help them find alternative ways to preserve their land, and at the same time realize their financial objectives.
Even with the incredible boom in housing, there seems to be plenty of land available, but what is not so apparent is the amount of land necessary for raising crops or providing pastureland that supports the riding and recreational industries. Such lands maintain a healthy equine environment because the equine industry in turn provides a market for farming. As land is slowly lost, the county's rural identity and one of our best-known traditions go along with it.
Side effects? Yes. When the land is lost, we lose natural areas; we lose land that allows for natural water recharge to our aquifers; we lose storm-water control; we create erosion; we lose forests that moderate our climate and provide habitat for wildlife; we lose open fields that we all love to see, and we lose low traffic and housing density.I guess you could sum it by saying - we lose.
For many good reasons, the committee plans to prioritize lands that it feels need to be preserved as soon as possible, and with support of the community, the committee will work to preserve the lands identified as crucial areas.
Of course, to realize these objectives, the committee hopes to enlist the many equine interests in our community. Fox hunting, polo, carriage driving, three-day event participants, show barns, steeplechase, pleasure riding, horse racing, veterinarians - all part of Aiken's equestrian culture, and all dependent on the existence of land. These groups and more will be asked to join the effort of land conservation in the county.
The alliance hopes to become the catalyst for all who would like to be a part of this important effort to preserve and protect land and the great equine traditions of the city. Really, anyone who loves the land can help out.
For more information, contact the Aiken County Open Land Trust, P.O. Box 3096, Aiken SC 29802, or visit www.acolt.org.
Ana Callahan is a writer and editor for the Aiken County Open Land Trust.