Twenty years ago, in a Howard Johnson hotel in Rock Hill, a handful of Fort Mill residents met to talk about how to protect their beloved town from being engulfed by Charlotte.
The group, which included the late William "Bill" Kimbrell, became the charter members of the Nation Ford Land Trust, an organization that has had a hand in protecting more than 9,000 acres of open space in York County. Kimbrell has been honored by the Fort Mill Council of the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce for his work on the Nation Ford Land Trust, and named as the Murray B. White Preservationist of the Year.
Kimbrell passed away in January and was honored as the Preservationist of the Year posthumously. Kimbrell was one of the charter board members of the land trust and, according to Jeff Updike, the executive director of the Nation Ford Land Trust, was the first person to donate money to the trust.
"He put his money where his mouth is," Updike said. "He said something to the effect of, 'I've been part of a lot of missions and things and we need a lot of money.' And he put in $100, and he challenged the other board members to do that as well."
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The Nation Ford Land Trust was created as a way to preserve open space in Fort Mill and surrounding areas. Since its inception in 1989, thanks in large part to Kimbrell, the land trust has had a hand in protected open space in Fort Mill and the surrounding area, including frontage along the Catawba River and Confederate Park in Fort Mill.
Updike, Will Close and Murray White, whom the award is named for, comprised the selection committee for the Preservationist of the Year Award. Kimbrell was well known for being an active volunteer in Fort Mill, Updike said, especially with the Boy Scouts of America. But his work with the land trust was the real legacy, Updike said.
Without Kimbrell's early work on the Nation Ford Land Trust, Updike said that there wouldn't be an emphasis on protecting frontage along the Catawba River, or any large green spaces that are now protected by the land trust.
"He was a visionary in those early days and continued to be up 'til his passing. He was an integral part of the land trust and we wanted to make sure people knew that," Updike said.