Ted Turner is not the well-known public figure he was in the 1980s and ’90s. As a pioneer in cable television and the man responsible for creating CNN and Turner Broadcasting, Turner may have been even more widely known, at least in the South, as the high-profile owner of the Atlanta Braves during the team’s heyday in the 1990s.
After selling his TV empire, which included TBS and TNT, Turner largely faded from public view. But he was not idle.
The self-made billionaire is a serious environmentalist and conservationist. He moved from a media empire to priorities such as species conservation and nuclear weapons eradication. His stated priority has been to leave the world a better place for future generations.
Through his foundations -- including the United Nations Foundation, Turner Foundation, Nuclear Threat Initiative and Turner Endangered Species Fund -- Turner advanced conservation and philanthropic efforts. Among his various and considerable contributions, such as his historic $1 billion gift to the United Nations, Turner has given millions of dollars to programs for improving air and water quality, developing a sustainable energy future to protect climate, safeguarding environmental health and protecting wildlife and habitats to maintain biodiversity.
And he has acquired land, including in South Carolina, which now has a rare opportunity. Turner wants the state to purchase an island to supplement Hunting Island State Park in Beaufort County.
Turner Enterprises Inc. announced that it intends to charitably transfer to the state the 4,680-acre St. Phillips Island near Beaufort in a “bargain sale.”
St. Phillips Island is located southwest of Hunting Island across Port Royal Sound from Hilton Head Island. It may be the largest privately held, undeveloped barrier island left on the S.C. coast.
According to The Post and Courier of Charleston, the island currently can be accessed only by boat at a landing four miles from the oceanfront main house and beach. Development is restricted to 10 more houses because of an agreement Turner signed with The Nature Conservancy.
“Owning St. Phillips Island has given me tremendous pleasure and peace of mind,” Turner said in a press release. “It has been a place to spend time with my family and friends observing and interacting with nature and appreciating the raw beauty that still exists today. It’s my hope that visitors from South Carolina and elsewhere will enjoy the island’s natural environment for generations to come.”
Acquiring St. Phillips would cost the state $5 million for the 4,682-acre island. It went on the market in 2014 for $24 million.
The S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism is asking state legislators to pay the $5 million.
“We are thrilled. It’s not often that such a great opportunity is presented to the State of South Carolina,” SCPRT Director Duane Parrish said. “We are excited about its complement to Hunting Island State Park nearby. And we’re looking forward to adding a unique, exceptional coastal experience to our inventory.
If the acquisition is approved by the Joint Bond Review Committee and the State Fiscal Accountability Authority, the island will become part of the Hunting Island park managed by SCPRT. The agency would assess its resources and operational capacities to determine its optimal management structure and revenue potential.
The opportunity to acquire the island should not be missed.
As Parrish says: “This is a tremendous, once-in-a lifetime opportunity for the State Park System to provide public access to an island that has been privately held for many years while also ensuring the continued stewardship of its natural resources.”