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Step forward to save historic plantation

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POSTED: September 6, 2010 11:43 a.m.
LeConte-Woodmanston Plantation and Botanical Gardens suffered a serious setback last week when Mary Beth Evans tendered her resignation as the foundation’s executive vice president.
For three years, Evans said she logged 50-60 volunteer hours a week, lovingly caring for and maintaining LeConte-Woodmanston, the Riceboro plantation that was first established in 1760 by John Eatton LeConte.
The plantation has survived fires, wars, years of neglect and has been rebuilt, in part, several times, although none of the plantation homes built on the property survived. It is a historical gem and a valuable resource for our area. A tourist attraction and education facility, LeConte-Woodmanston is teeming with heritage, wildlife, beautiful vegetation and carefully cultivated features, such as a children’s garden and a memorial walk that honors more than 6,000 people who were enslaved in Liberty County in 1860.
Obviously, it takes a dedicated force of volunteers and hard workers to sustain an institution of this size. One person — or even a few people — can’t do it alone, although Evans certainly tried.
While volunteer groups came on occasion to lend a hand at LeConte, a lack of funding left the foundation unable to properly staff the property. The tasks and chores necessary to keep the plantation afloat are too much for a skeleton crew to handle. And even though the work overwhelmed Evans and her few helpers, they worked tirelessly to sustain LeConte so our area could lay claim to this coastal jewel.
That era is over now. No longer can people in this region speak proudly of the cornerstone site, nor can residents enjoy all that it has to offer unless they’re willing to do what is necessary to ensure the plantation’s survival.
Unless everyone who cares about LeConte is willing to step up and work hard, this scenario will play out again and again. Other dedicated leaders will become frustrated and exhausted, and they will step down.
The next foundation vice president will need support from the community and the board. Evans said three paid positions — a groundskeeper, an administrator and a development director — must be added if LeConte-Woodmanston is to thrive.
Make no mistake, though, the plantation will survive. Evans is sure of it.
“I believe in LeConte,” she said. “I believe it really does have a future.”

 

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