Fort Mill conservationist's devotion to land preservation recognized

Murray White, pictured at the Nation Ford Greenway in Fort Mill this week, will be honored with a BMW Conservation Award.
Murray White, pictured at the Nation Ford Greenway in Fort Mill this week, will be honored with a BMW Conservation Award.

Murray White, the founder of Nation Ford Land Trust, is the 10th person honored with a BMW Conservation Award for lifetime contributions to preserving South Carolina's natural resources.

White is being recognized for protecting more than 4,530 acres in the county since 1989, including easements on farms and several miles of land along the Catawba and Broad rivers and Sugar Creek. White, who lives in Fort Mill, is a former member of the York County Council.

Admirers say White was instrumental in preserving land that had significance in the Revolutionary War -- the Battle of Huck's Defeat, King's Mountain and Nanny's Mountain.

White recently spoke with Herald reporter Kimberly Dick about the award and his devotion to land preservation.

Q: How does it feel to be honored with this award?

A: "Certainly, anytime that you're recognized for something that you do, I'm humbled and honored both at the same time. What we've been recognized for with Nation Ford Land Trust has been done through a lot of people. I have to accept the award on behalf of the whole group, not just an individual."

Q: How did you get started preserving land?

A: "Back in 1989, there was a national program that identified towns located on interstates near a growing metropolitan area. How do you help a town like that prepare for the future so that as growth occurs, you don't lose the identity?

"A classic example is down in Atlanta. The only way to know you're in Lawrenceville, Ga., is the sign that says 'Lawrenceville city limits.' We didn't want Fort Mill to suffer the same fate, and one way to combat that was a land trust.

"None of us knew what a land trust was then. Nation Ford Land Trust started off as a Fort Mill organization, and we realized we needed to change it and make a countywide organization. We've done more work outside Fort Mill than inside it."

Q: How do land trusts work with the rapid growth of York County?

A: "We view the land trust as one of the growth management tools that can work with municipal and county governments to help manage and direct growth as we become more urbanized. You need to have good, healthy growth. Sometimes, ours has been too healthy.

"Growth can threaten quality of life. People like to look out their back door and see trees rather than houses. If you manage it properly, then you address a lot of quality-of-life issues. If we do our jobs right, we become the beneficiary rather than the victim of growth."

Q: What do people need to know about land preservation and conservation?

A: "No. 1, I think people need to understand the basics of land trust and conservation activities and the number of options for land conservation out there. If you understand that, find out how to make it work in your best interests. Most of our activities involve donations of land or easements on land from property owners."

Q: Tell us something we didn't know about you.

A: "I was raised on a family farm that was in my family for multiple generations. I married my high school sweetheart, who was raised on a farm about a mile away from where I lived."

White, nominated by Fort Mill's Anne Springs Close, will be honored at a reception from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the White Homestead. The event is free, but attendees must RSVP by calling 771-0870.

-- Kimberly Dick