Johns Island, the Lowcountry's last remaining rural sea island, is a vast swath of land between James Island, the mainland west of Charleston and the barrier islands of Kiawah and Seabrook.
Its future is one of the most important undecided questions in the Lowcountry. The island grows much of the area's fresh organic produce and is home to numerous farms, nurseries, packing houses and produce stands. Many of Charleston's top chefs and restaurants rely on the local, organic produce for their restaurant operations. And though its main transportation arteries are heavily trafficked, the island has miles of long, quiet, tree-lined roads that attract Lowcountry bicyclists.
Traffic remains one of the island's most pressing issues. Johns Islanders shot down a proposed Cross Island Expressway in the 1990's and are divided over a proposed extension to Interstate 526 that would cross the island en route to the James Island Connector, shortening the 30-minute commute to Charleston considerably. The debate continues, as opponents don't want to trade their rural way of life for the suburban development better roads would bring.
The island boasts The Angel Oak, believed to be one of the oldest trees east of the Mississippi. Said to be an estimated 1,500 years old, the oak is a graceful giant, 65 feet tall and more than 25' around. Owned by the City of Charleston, it is open to the public.
Another local gem is the village of Rockville at the end of neighboring Wadmalaw Island. This remote, picturesque village plays host each August to the Rockville Regatta, an event that dates back more than 100 years and marks the end of the Lowcountry's competitive sailing season.
Horses raised for work, transportation or recreation have long been a part of life on the island. The public Mullet Hall Equestrian Center at Johns Island County Park (a largely undeveloped 738-acre tract) provides facilities for horse shows, plus 20 miles of riding trails.
The Charleston Executive Airport is a small facility that offers convenience to resort visitors and flying lessons for locals.
A 16,000 square foot library, completed in 2004, is the county's largest branch.
Much of the development on the island today is upscale, including The Preserve at Fenwick Hall. Other developments offer a mixture of affordable and luxury choices, varying from waterfront lots to Charleston-style urbanism to custom rural seclusion.
The island's central commercial district is located at the intersection of Main, Maybank and Bohicket roads.
Johns Island is a stronghold of Gullah culture and holds a special place in the Lowcountry's civil rights history. Native son Esau Jenkins, despite no formal education beyond the fourth grade, understood in the 1950's and 1960's that the future of the island's black communities would depend on boot-strapping programs for their education and health. He and others founded "Citizenship Schools" that helped residents - many illiterate - qualify to vote, and their Sea Island Health Corp. brought doctors and nurses to rural corners that had never received proper care.