Ever since Olivia Boyce-Abel was a girl, she wanted the undeveloped Waties Island to remain free from human interference, and preserved for the benefit of South Carolinians.
“There’s never been a question in my mind since I was little that this land was to be preserved, and in our mother’s mind as well,” Boyce-Abel said. “There aren’t many natural resources left like this. There’s so few of them. Being in nature, I think basically assists people in being closer to God.”
She’s one step closer to her goal. Last week, she settled a lawsuit over the ownership of 108 acres of accreted land on the 2.5-mile island near North Myrtle Beach.
Boyce-Abel owns more than 255 acres of land on the northern end of Waties Island and had always claimed title to the accreted property.
But in December 2020, when she was weeks away from closing on a deal to sell her land to the non-profit Open Space Institute in a bid to preserve it, the Coastal Educational Foundation filed a complaint disputing her ownership of the accreted land and claiming it for themselves.
A year-and-a-half later, with the lawsuit settled, Boyce-Abel has retained the title.
“CEF is no longer contesting that the accreted land is mine,” Boyce-Abel said. “They agreed to drop the lawsuit. I’m now relieved and excited for the future of the land, and what it means for preservation of the land for the people of South Carolina.”
A motion is now before a judge to dismiss the suit, said South Carolina Environmental Law Project Executive Director Amy Armstrong, who represented Boyce-Abel during the litigation.
Armstrong said SCELP founder Jimmy Chandler had a long relationship with Boyce-Abel’s family since she and her siblings divided Waties Island among themselves in the 1990s after their mother died. When the Coastal Educational Foundation filed the lawsuit, SCELP saw the opportunity to help Boyce-Abel preserve her part of the island.