“Plant a Palm – Hurricane Hugo struck the Isle of Palms on September 21, 1989. This powerful storm destroyed the natural landscape of the island and demolished many homes and businesses. In an effort to restore a portion of the natural beauty, a group of concerned citizens organized the Plant-A-Palm Committee. The Committee sponsored numerous events, soliciting donations and grants to raise money fro the purchase and planting of over 800 native Sabal Palmetto trees along Palm Boulevard. This marker is a tribute to those who served on the Plant-A-Palm Committee. The Isle of Palms and its people are sincerely grateful.”
Phyllis Shaffer smiled widely as she looked up at the sign which had just been revealed in a small ceremony at 21st Boulevard. “I’ve never seen my name in gold before,” she laughed. But according to all of the Isle of Palms residents and Council members who attended the ceremony, it was the least they could do for the sparkling, vivacious woman and the rest of the Plant-A-Palm Committee.
At 9am on September 21, Palm Boulevard at 21st Avenue was shut down for about an hour as the City of Isle of Palms acknowledged this hard working, visionary committee which was formed just a short year after Hurricane Hugo devastated the island. Chaired by Robert Chestnut and Jack Sims, the Committee burst into life when Phyllis Shaffer met Robert Chestnut, “A man who was more vocal, bossy and pushy than me”, as Phyllis elaborated in her speech. With the help of Robert’s friend Ollie Olivier, owner of Palm Trees Ltd, the Committee began sending out mailers, collecting donations and planting native Sabal Palm trees along Palm Boulevard. Today there are more than 850 Sabal Palms along Palm Boulevard, and the Committee is still taking donations in order to finish the tree lined drive from 21st to Breach Inlet. “We’ve come a long way,” said Phyllis. “But the people on the Isle of Palms have not changed. We still care about each other and we’re still a strong community.”
“There are not many dates in our memories where we can site where we were and what we were doing,” said Mayor Cronin. “Hugo was one of these. Today, we’re celebrating the citizens who embarked on a project that lifted the spirits of the people of this island and its visitors. I’m looking forward to 20, 40, 60 years of these palms being the signature and future of our island.”
According to Ollie Olivier, we can expect at least 60 years or more out of the Committee’s palm trees. In fact, no one has ever been able to document the lifespan of a palm tree, as they do not have growth rings like most trees. Ollie did point out that there is one palm in Aiken, SC, which has been documented at 165 years old, “So these could be here for a while,” he smiled.
Thanks go out to all of the members of the Plant-A-Palm Committee, whose names are also inscribed in gold on the Plant-A-Palm plaque: Chairmen Robert Chestnut and Jack Sims, Chuck and Pauline Blair, Dick Boyce, John Bozzelli, Malcolm Burgin, Pam DeFratus, Al Gibson, IOP Mayor Carmen Bunch (1995-2001), Peatsy Hollings, Ceal Irwin, Johnnie Reed, Charlotte Riley, Phyllis Shaffer, Laura Skatell, Bonne Taylor and B.B. Weavil.
To donate to the Plant a Palm Project, contact Debbie Suggs at the Isle of Palms City Hall, 886-6428.