Whengrowth threatens a culture. Basket weavers hoping for theprotection that national registry offers

ByChris Dixon

Wednesday,April19, 2006

Edition:FINAL, Section: NATION, Page A1


MOUNTPLEASANT — Two things become clear when you talk to black,longtime Mount Pleasant residents about progress: They want theirsweetgrass basket-weaving culture preserved and protected, and theydon't want their historic neighborhoods further divided by highwaysor subdivisions.

One way to ensurethe protection is to have the basket weavers placed on the NationalRegister for Historic Places, a move that will be taken up Thursdayby a task force that's charged with issuing recommendations on theextension of Hungryneck Boulevard in Mount Pleasant.

Pressure isincreasing on the roadside stands that provide families with theirlivelihood. The strongest champion for winning recognition for thebasket weavers and their stands from the National Register ofHistoric Places is Michael

Allen, theNational Park Service education specialist at Fort Sumter and theCharles Pinckney Historic Site.

At a meeting ofthe task force April 5, Allen addressed the importance of basketweaving to South Carolina's heritage.

He followed upwith a conversation Tuesday with officials at the National Register,who agreed that generations of basket-weaving families along U.S.

Highway 17 mightbe worthy of a Register nomination.

The next step, hesaid, will be a thorough photographic, cultural and historical surveyof families and their stands.

He noted thatsweetgrass basket weaving was recently named South Carolina's statecraft, adding, "At this point, the basket weavers deserve this andtheir history deserves this. That's why the National Register was putinto place."

Allen said thatit is too early to tell what a Register designation would look like,but he said that it would afford a higher level of protection fromencroachment by development than weavers have today.

Several standshave been abandoned in the past few years as development has madethem unusable, a situation Hamlin Beach resident and task forcemember Isiah Horry said was simply unacceptable. "Sixty (percent) or70 percent of the people in this area are basket weavers," he said."It's something that's been passed down and they feel strongly aboutit. You try to take it away from people and you're going to have afight."

Horry's neighboris task force member Gwendolyn Robinson. She and Horry said thataccessing Rifle Range Road from their community had become dangerouswith waits to reach Rifle Range Road sometimes reaching 10 minutes ormore.

Both said thatany extension of Hungryneck should include decisions to controlfuture development. They hope to see sidewalks, setbacks and streetlights on any planned road, and ample compensation for anyone whomight be moved.

"This road has adirect impact on property owners, and a person who lives in this areais not interested in seeing drastic changes," Robinson said. "We wantto bring improvements without bringing change to the character of thearea."

If you go

The Highway 17 TaskForce meets 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the police conference room of theMount Pleasant Annex building on Houston Northcutt Boulevard.