CAMDEN — A $500,000 investment from the South Carolina state Legislature is helping Clemson University turn a vision of making connections with the natural world into reality on 853 acres of land in Kershaw County known as Hardscramble.
State Sen. Vincent Sheheen and Rep. Laurie Funderburke, both of whom represent Kershaw County, made the check presentation on behalf of the state Wednesday to continue the work late environmental activist Margaret Lloyd set into place in 2007 with the land gift to Clemson as well as a $2 million endowment to further scientific discoveries and encourage groundbreaking scholarship of the natural world.
Calling Funderburke “a key player in making this happen,” Sheheen expressed their excitement for the project and its potential for Camden, Kershaw County and the state of South Carolina.
“It’s such an important project and really one of a kind,” Sheheen said.
Since 2016, Clemson University professor Rob Baldwin, the Margaret H. Lloyd-SmartState Endowed Chair, has built a research and education team to best fulfill both Lloyd’s wishes and Clemson’s mission. From forestry to social science to education, the team is taking advantage of the abundance of Hardscramble’s unique opportunities and, in the process, quickly making Lloyd’s dream a reality.
Baldwin thanked Sheheen for his “belief in the Camden area and its potential to highlight the history and the natural beauty for the benefit of the rest of the state, as well as the whole nation.”
The Hardscramble property is bordered by the Wateree River on one side and the quiet town of Camden on the other, and the preservation and wise use of this longleaf-pine dominated forest represent Lloyd’s dream of fostering environmental education in the state of South Carolina.
“We think this project is of national significance,” Baldwin said, “and we believe that Margaret Lloyd’s vision for the land to be a place where people of all ages learn from the natural world and connect with each other came one giant leap closer today.”
Baldwin also directed much credit to Leoncia Cruz, an environmental education specialist based in Camden who will develop endowment programs at the property, and Clemson professor of practice Phil Gaines, who recently retired as director of South Carolina State Parks, for their work in developing the master plan for the project.
The master plan includes an educational children’s garden, garden shed, pavilion, bus parking and drop-off area, and restrooms. Those facilities will allow Cruz to deliver her educational offerings to youth from around the state, region and beyond.
Goz Segars, who served on the Clemson University Real Estate Foundation when the initial gift for the Hardscramble property was given, said he first saw the property in 2008.
“I came by myself to look at it and came back (to Clemson) and said, ‘I want my grandchildren to see this property just as it was,’” Segars said. “So we have worked to do that — not because of what I said, but because that was Mrs. Lloyd’s wish … and on behalf of Clemson, I just can’t tell you how much I appreciate the local support we have gotten as we have gone through this process.”
Sheheen said he was a young child when he got to know Lloyd, who would come to visit his house and have dinner with his family.
“To say she was an interesting person would put it mildly,” Sheheen said. “But she loved this property and she loved this community and she kept her ties here and I know she would be excited about what we’re seeing today.”
Sheheen said he and Funderburke spent the last legislative session promoting the project at the state level and presented the $500,000 check on behalf of the Legislature. The funding represents an appropriation the state of South Carolina put into this year’s state budget specifically for the project.
“This is a team effort between the state and the university, the city and the county; (Kershaw County Council Chairman Julian) Burns has been fully supportive, so this is really exciting to see this come to fruition,” Sheheen said. “This is a significant investment on the part of the state of South Carolina to Clemson directly, but really not only for the benefit of Clemson directly, but Kershaw County and the city of Camden and this region as a whole.”
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