Why is it important?
Gadsden Creek is the last tidal creek in Charleston found on the edge of the peninsula near Brittlebank park. It was once a much larger area of wetland before a tornado in 1938 began to fill in the area with debris. From there, the city continued to dump its waste into the marsh to fill it. Structures such as Joseph P. Riley stadium and Brittlebank Park have been built on top of the debris. Despite this, Gadsden Creek is still a highly productive ecosystem. It is home to a variety of wildlife such as egrets, crabs, and fish. Those who have lived in the area have fond memories of growing up fishing and playing in the water. Schools even have field trips here to educate the public about the environmental system.
From the very beginning, the city of Charleston produced low quality housing in the area that they deemed “fit” for low income families. Redlining (labeling areas of low-income unfit for funding) led to segregation of the city so that the neighborhood Gadsden Green received no financial investments and was only populated by low income families. The high percentage of African Americans that are under the poverty line in Charleston led to the unsafe infrastructure being dominantly populated by people of color. When the city dumped pollutants into parts of the creek, minorities living in the area were exposed to toxic chemicals that threatened their health. The area is also more prone to flooding due to the city filling in the marsh, destroying the natural drainage system. All these risks to their health or safety that Gadsden Green faces are consequences of environmental racism.
The fight to save the creek
The Westedge development project is determined to fill in the rest of Gadsden Creek to build luxury commercial buildings. In order to fill in this land, they are required by law to restore land elsewhere. They have chosen to restore an area in Summerville that is nowhere near this creek. The development of the marsh would lead to the destruction of this natural drainage system that protects the city from flooding. Increased precipitation and higher sea levels being brought about by climate change will increase the likelihood of flooding throughout the city. The destruction of a natural drainage system is the last thing Charleston needs.
The plan would also force residents in the area to abandon their community. The economic growth that is predicted to come from this project would only benefit the few investors that are involved, not the people who are being kicked out of their homes. This would continue the trend of African Americans facing the consequences of environmental developments while affluent investors reap the rewards. The wetland that locals enjoy fishing or swimming in, protects the city from flooding or pollutants, is used for education, and is home to local wildlife, would be destroyed with no compensation for those who would be affected the most.
How to help
To protect the community of Gadsden Green and prevent any further development of the creek, it is important that we hold the city accountable for cleaning up the mess that they made. The creek needs to be restored to protect the health of the locals, the wildlife, and the city from flooding. In order for the area to be developed. Unfortunately, a permit for West Edge has been approved by DHEC, but all hope is not lost. You can voice your concern about this decision with the Army Corps of Engineers. There are also Charleston watershed meetings where you can show your support of Gadsden Creek to local officials. For the sake of the health of the Gadsden Green community, we need to make our voices heard.
Contact for Army Corps:
Courtney Stevens: Courtney.M.Stevens@usace.army.mil
Make sure to include the Gadsden permit number (P/N SAC-2015-00188) in your comment
Local Organizations to Reach Out to:
There are several local organizations that are participating in the fight to protect the creek. All of these groups have websites with up to date information on the creek as well as ways you can help them in their fight.
Charleston Water Keeper. (2018, July 24). Gadsden Creek. Retrieved from http://charlestonwaterkeeper.org/2015/04/20/gadsden-creek-2/
Coastal Conservation League. (2021, March 5). Gadsden Creek. Retrieved from https://www.coastalconservationleague.org/projects/gadsden-creek/
Johnson, C. (2020, November 11). Gadsden Creek becomes a flashpoint in Charleston discussion on environmental justice. Retrieved from https://www.postandcourier.com/news/gadsden-creek-becomes-a-flashpoint-in-charleston-discussion-on-environmental-justice/article_8a40ece8-c5e9-11ea-b50e-df363e8bef92.html