Private foundation sues for ownership of public land

public land
The Belle Baruch Foundation is attempting to seize public land, but the SC Attorney Ganeral's office is fighting against the measure.

SC Attorney General’s office, DeBordieu Colony oppose Foundation’s goal

The Belle W. Baruch Foundation is attempting to seize control of more than 8,000 acres of marsh in the North Inlet that have been considered state-owned and available for public use for generations. The South Carolina Attorney General’s office is opposing the efforts. The DeBordieu Colony, as well as other organizations have joined the Attorney General’s office in the fight.

The Baruch Foundation filed a lawsuit in circuit court in Georgetown, S.C. in November. Their lawsuit claims ownership of all the land known as Hobcaw Barony in Georgetown County between the mean low and high water marks which includes the marshlands. The claim is based upon centuries-old English kings’ land grants, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks to upend settled law that there is a strong presumption that South Carolina owns the area between the mean low and high tide lines. 

DeBordieu Colony neighbors the Baruch property

With the Attorney General’s consent, The DeBordieu Colony Community, which is adjacent to the Baruch property, has filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit.

In their response, State Attorney General Alan Wilson and Solicitor General Robert D. Cook assert state ownership of the marshlands. The State of South Carolina also contends that even if it is determined that the Baruch Foundation is the owner, the foundation “lacks the power to exclude the general public from the waters, because the public has the right under the Constitution and statutes of South Carolina to make use of the disputed area.”

“The Baruch Foundation’s sweeping grab of the tidelands poses serious concerns for our property owners, but the issue goes well beyond DeBordieu to thousands of people who use the marshlands for fishing and many other recreational activities,” said Blanche Brown, general manager of DeBordieu. “We appreciate the Attorney General’s position on behalf of the people of South Carolina.”

Brown also acknowledged the support of legislators such as State Senators Stephen Goldfinch and Ronnie Sabb in their efforts to keep the marshlands public.


“The marshlands at North Inlet are a pristine treasure for Georgetown County. I grew up there and enjoy sharing it with my family, as do many people. It is an important part of our heritage. I am concerned that private ownership would jeopardize public access to this treasure regardless of the promises made to the contrary. While, as an outdoorsman, I admire the work of the Baruch Foundation, a lot of people have serious misgivings about the lawsuit.”

Captain Douglas Miller

Big Marsh Guides Service

Georgetown, SC


“I don’t understand the motive behind it. It’s either to keep us out or to keep it for themselves. My wife’s family has been here more than 300 years and she has pictures of her grandfather and great uncle in a boat at North Inlet. It’s a great legacy for the county and I’d hate to see that legacy be privatized. A lot of people around here feel that way.”

Cotton Williams

President, Independent Seafood, Georgetown


“A natural resource like the marshlands at North Inlet is a God-given right and it’s one of the most beautiful places in South Carolina. I’ve enjoyed fishing there for years and I’d like to see my kids enjoy it the way I do. People in Georgetown and all up and down the coast love it. I’d like to know why the Baruch board is trying to do this because it frustrates me that they want to take it, and I’ve not heard a reason why. There’s something behind door number three and they’re just not opening that door.”

Philip M. Sawyer

Georgetown resident

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