The Angel Oak on Johns Island is a beloved and storied southern Live Oak tree with an age estimate of 400 - 1,000 years. Its expansive trunk, with a circumference of 25.5 feet, and broad canopy, covering an area of over 17,000 square feet, provide habitat for diverse life - from the vibrant resurrection ferns covering its limbs to the many plant and animal species that it supports to the thousands of individuals who seek its calming presence each year. The Angel Oak has been an important site for Indigenous and Gullah/Geechee People for generations and is truly a natural wonder.
The Angel Oak was initially saved from mounting development pressures by the grassroots efforts of dedicated community leaders and conservation teams. The tree and its surrounding ecosystems were ultimately preserved by Lowcountry Land Trust with generous financial support from 12,000+ individuals, the South Carolina State Conservation Bank, and the Charleston County Greenbelt. After purchasing the property surrounding the Oak over 10 years ago, the Land Trust has engaged local partners and the community in an effort to create a publicly accessible landscape that will conserve and enhance the Angel Oak's integrity and the ecosystem it supports. The Lowcountry Land Trust commissioned NBW to develop a comprehensive plan for the new Angel Oak Preserve, which unites the city’s current 2-acre Angel Oak Park with the surrounding 42-acre property. The design is rooted in the ecological and cultural history of the land and in the Lowcountry Land Trust’s mission of protecting and preserving the natural resources of the Lowcountry
A major goal for the conservation-oriented plan is to increase accessibility and improve circulation, share the stories of the land, and preserve the Angel Oak itself. The comprehensive plan envisions boardwalk trails that protect the Angel Oak’s root structure and provide immersive access to site-wide ecological systems. The plan will provide universal accessibility, a new welcome center, and spaces for youth activities. In partnership with the City of Charleston, a parking lot consisting of permeable aggregate will mitigate stormwater run-off, incorporate bio-retention areas, and achieve ADA accessibility, allowing convenient access to the Preserve’s nature play area, welcome center, and trail system. The design integrates information about the history of the Angel Oak and the Sea Islands as well as education on the ecological significance of live oaks, maritime forests, and forested wetlands.

Collaborators: Angel Oak Preserve, Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, Charleston County Parks and Recreation, Charleston Parks Conservancy, Coastal Conservation League, College of Charleston, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Gullah/Geechee Nation, Historic Charleston Foundation, Lowcountry Land Trust, Progressive Club, Robinson Design Engineers, SC Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, SC State Representatives, Sea Island Comprehensive Healthcare, St. John's Episcopal Church, The Citadel, Town of Kiawah, Individual community representatives and scientific experts in various fields of ecology