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LeConte leader worries for future
These hydrangea bushes were donated to the LeConte-Woodmanston Plantation by the Richmond Hill Garden Club. The LeConte Botanical Garden and plantation site could be in jeopardy due to a lack of funds. - photo by Phgoto by Patty Leon
The fate of the lush botanical gardens at the LeConte-Woodmanston Plantation is questionable, according to Mary Beth Evans, the executive director of the LeConte-Woodmanston Plantation Foundation.
“The organization needs to find funding for three full-time staff members very soon, or the site will likely close,” she said.
Evans said volunteers have been renovating the half-acre formal garden, which was created in the 1990s. They’re correcting old drainage problems to prepare for the ongoing installment of “The Walk-an African American Tribute.”  The memorial walk honors more than 6,000 people who were enslaved in Liberty County in 1860.
LeConte-Woodmanston is also part of the American Camellia Trail, and the foundation plans to plant nearly 600 registered Georgia cultivars of camellias.
There are only 41 registered Camellia Trails in the American Camellia Society’s approved list.
The foundation also has been rescuing threatened camellia collections. Recently, a group transplanted 30 camellias from an old estate in the path of the Truman Parkway expansion in Savannah. An area at LeConte has been prepared to receive this and other collections, Evans said.
The plantation and the once-flourishing garden were abandoned in the 1930s. The site sat in a state of disrepair until the 1970s when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places and 64 acres were donated to the Garden Club of Georgia.
In 1982, local businessmen Jack Waters, Durand Standard, John Woods, Ron Tolley and many others joined the efforts of the garden club and adopted a master plan.
However, the plan to re-create the gardens and an interpretive rice plantation never came to fruition. In 1993, the LeConte-Woodmanston Foundation was established to take over as the site’s guardians. Local businessman and state Sen. Glenn Bryant pledged to build a visitors’ center in honor of his late wife, Trudy, and the Cecil B. Day Foundation pledged funds to furnish the interior of the facility. But Bryant died and his plans for the center were never completed.
In 2007, the old master plan was abandoned for one designed to make the plantation site and garden more significant by preserving the inherent beauty, history and legacy to honor those who once lived and worked on the grounds.
But Evans, who is a volunteer, said without funding, LeConte-Woodmanston might get lost once again.
“When people realize what an asset this site can be to the Southeast — as an educational resource and as a tourist destination — when the economy is a little brighter, hopefully, Woodmanston won’t stay lost forever,” she said.
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