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Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve acquisition adds 283 acres to Greenville County landmark, triples size

June 14, 2024

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) Heritage Trust Program has added 283 acres to Greenville County’s Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve with the help of key conservation partners.

"It is through steadfast partnerships such as these that we are able to preserve and protect irreplaceable features like Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve for current and future generations," said Robert H. Boyles Jr., SCDNR director. "We are so grateful for the collaboration from our conservation partners that made this addition happen."

Acquisition of the Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve addition was made possible through a partnership with The Nature Conservancy in South Carolina, South Carolina Conservation Bank, Greenville County Historic and Natural Resources Trust, Boy Scouts of America and SCDNR’s Heritage Trust program. The new lands bring the total acreage of the preserve to 396 acres, more than three times its original footprint.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in South Carolina purchased the property from the Blue Ridge Council of the Boy Scouts of America in 2022. TNC then held the property while SCDNR secured the funds to make the acquisition.

"The protection of this property is important not only for its natural and historical features," said Dale Threatt-Taylor, TNC in South Carolina executive director, "but also because of its location just below TNC’s conservation easement in the Greenville Watersheds. These 30,000 acres provide clean drinking water to more than half a million people. We’re excited to see this significant preserve expanded and new lands opened for public access."

Also playing a key role in the preserve’s expansion was the Greenville County Historic and Natural Resources Trust, an independent agency that funds projects to preserve Greenville County’s historic and natural resources.

"The Greenville County Historic and Natural Resources Trust is honored to be a part of this great project," said Alex Reynolds, communications committee chair of the Greenville County Historic and Natural Resources Trust. "The Poinsett Bridge is a great landmark preserving the history and heritage of our county and is a prime example of a how the Trust can be used to help strategically preserve key places for future generations to enjoy."

Poinsett Bridge is a 204-year-old arched stone bridge considered to be the oldest surviving stone bridge in South Carolina and potentially the oldest stone bridge in the southeastern United States. In 2003, SCDNR’s Heritage Trust program acquired 120 acres to protect and oversee the maintenance of Poinsett Bridge.

"Archaeological investigations and historical research of Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve have provided great insights into past people," said Heritage Trust Archaeologist Sean Taylor. "We know that because of the acquisition, future archaeological investigations and research will reveal more stories about this place and its people dating back to time immemorial."

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, Poinsett Bridge is named for Joel Roberts Poinsett, a legislator, physician and botanist from South Carolina. Poinsett was a Charleston native, a prominent early resident of Greenville and a U.S. ambassador to Mexico. The poinsettia flower, which Poinsett introduced to the United States from Mexico, was named for him.

Poinsett Bridge was part of the State Road from Charleston through Columbia to North Carolina designed between 1817-1819 by Poinsett, then director of the South Carolina Board of Public Works. The gothic-inspired arch of Poinsett Bridge includes a keystone bearing the date of 1820. Robert Mills, architect of the Washington Monument and many significant South Carolina buildings, is thought to have designed Poinsett Bridge. Mills became the state architect and engineer for the South Carolina Public Works in 1820.

In addition to the important history of the preserve, it is also a significant natural resource. Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve is an area of the Blue Ridge Escarpment with rich geology, and the steep, north-facing slopes host rich cove forests home to many rare plant species including Appalachian Mountain mint, Eastern goatsbeard, Appalachian astilbe and yellow mandarin. The preserve is home to five species of bats, including the tri-colored bat, currently under review for listing with the Endangered Species Act. Migratory songbirds use the forest surrounding Poinsett Bridge for breeding and foraging habitat, and more than 73 bird species have been documented at the preserve.

Funding for the purchase of the Poinsett Bridge Expansion was provided by South Carolina Conservation Bank, Greenville Historic and Natural Resources Trust, SCDNR’s Heritage Trust program, and private donors.

"The expansion of the Poinsett Bridge site is particularly notable because it speaks to the value of collaboration," said Raleigh West, executive director of the South Carolina Conservation Bank. "From the Boy Scouts’ interest in the long-term stewardship of the property, to The Nature Conservancy’s willingness to acquire the property, to the local and state funding partners, and lastly to the long-term stewardship by the Heritage Trust program, this effort is a collaboration that will ultimately benefit the citizens of South Carolina. We’re honored to be one part of this significant undertaking."

Future plans for the preserve include improved accessibility and parking, the addition of hiking trails and wayfinding signage, and the stabilization of Poinsett Bridge.

SCDNR’s Heritage Trust program is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary. The Heritage Trust program was established Feb. 27, 1974, as the first of its kind in the nation. It subsequently began a movement to create similar programs for the protection of lands with both natural and cultural significance like Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve. For more information about the Heritage Trust program, visit: Heritage Trust - South Carolina (