Residents with the best view of a small island - a nesting place for blue herons - could have asked someone else do something when they realized it is melting into Lake Wylie.Instead, they decided to save the island themselves.
"They were seeing that island basically evaporate," said Jeff Updike, executive director of the Nation Ford Land Trust.
Three residents on the Fort Mill side of Heron Island, a small spot on Nivens Creek between Fort Mill and Tega Cay, recently presented a proposal to Updike about partnering with the Nation Ford Land Trust to protect it.
"If we waited another year or two, that island wouldn't even be there," said Ell Close, one of the residents hoping to save the island. "It'd be a sandbar or nothing."
Al Steele, who spearheaded the effort, said adding rip rap to stabilize the island would cost $18,750. He asked neighbors to help, and in two months, 12 donations tallied $13,250. Last week, Steele mailed letters to residents on the Tega Cay side of Nivens Creek seeking support.
"We hope to raise the money in the next month," he said.
Heron Island barely stretches beyond the length of a large pontoon boat. What it lacks in size, though, it makes up for in environmental significance.
"This is one of the most amazing things in the world," said Bernie Ackerman, a resident with a view of the island since 1977 and member of the NFLT board of directors. "I don't know where there's that type of concentration. Every morning one or two of those heron come onto my dock."
Heron Island has just six trees, five of which are living. Two years ago, blue heron began nesting in the trees. A recent survey by Duke Energy classified the island as a rookery and lent its name. Last year, seven blue heron nested on the island. This year there are 13 nests.
"This is nature at its finest," Steele said.
Before Hurricane Hugo in 1989, the island was five or six times larger than it is now and was home to 40 or 50 trees, residents say.
The devastating hurricane eroded the island, and now boat traffic and time in popular Nivens Creek continue to chip away at the island, Steele said.
"We could get 10 buoys around there but it wouldn't help," Close said of recreational boat traffic. "The only way to protect it is to put rip rap to block the waves."
Installation of rip rap began a couple of months ago and is almost complete, pending the $5,500 needed. Edwards Grading has been stabilizing the shoreline, while Shamrock Landscaping will replant trees to add habitat.
"It's a small island, and if we don't do something it could be washed away in a couple of years," Updike said. "The more (rip rap) we can put around it, the better it will be."
Residents and the land trust hope to secure grants from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources for Heron Island restoration, but for now, they hope to finish the work in progress.
For information about making a donation, call the Nation Ford Land Trust at 547-8140 or visit nationfordlandtrust.org.