All posts by stpal2012

A new park in Douglas County Georgia!

On June 15, 2016 we donated 85 acres of conservation land to Douglas County, Georgia for a new passive recreation park. Douglas County budgeted funds for a new passive park. We had land available for a new park. And now they have the land and the money. A new public park will soon be built!

This is a great deal for current and future Douglas County residents. Free is a fine price for their taxpayers! And the trees and critters that live on the site don’t mind either!

Much thanks to Douglas County Commissioner Mike Mulcare who came to us with a vision and for seeing it through to this great day. He is a big fan of parks and green-space and is leading the way for Douglas County to become known as a parks community.

We are thrilled and can’t wait to visit the new park once it is completed!

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Newsletter Spring 2016

Stpal newsletter spring 2016 pdf

It has been an incredible 6 months for STPAL! 
We are accredited! STPAL undertook the important process of applying for Accreditation status through the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. This process took us about two years from the very start until we were notified in February. The process is rigorous, time consuming, and challenging. It takes a deep look into all aspects of our work including our finances, policies, procedures, transactions, and acumen. It involved submitting hundreds of documents, interviews, and then more documents. It uncovered our weaknesses and provided a process for systemically addressing them. The end result of being Accredited is a nice feather in our cap, but the process itself has made us a much better organization. Because we own land that is permanently conserved we need to be permanent too. The Accreditation process has made us into an organization that will be just as permanent as our conservation lands. Check back in 5 years when we do it all again with the Reaccreditation process!

We are Accredited!

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Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land Earns National Recognition

Accreditation Promotes Public Trust, Ensures Permanence

 Marietta, GA (Feb. 23, 2016) – Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land (STPAL), a grass roots organization formed to facilitate the creation of new parks and land conservation across the Southeast, today announced it has achieved accreditation – a mark of honor in land conservation. The Land Trust Accreditation Commission awarded accreditation, signifying its confidence that STPAL’s lands will be protected forever.

“Accredited land trusts across the country have permanently conserved more than 15 million acres of farms, forests and natural areas that are vital to healthy, vibrant communities.

“Accreditation demonstrates STPAL’s commitment to permanent land conservation and to organizational excellence,” said Bill Jones, STPAL’s Founder and Executive Director. “We’re a stronger organization for having gone through the rigorous accreditation program and this strength will help make STPAL even more effective and beneficial to communities across the Southeast.”

STPAL was among 37 land trusts across the United States to achieve accreditation or to have accreditation renewed in February. STPAL joins the 342 land trusts that demonstrate their commitment to professional excellence through accreditation, helping to maintain the public’s trust in their work.

“It is exciting to recognize the Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land with this distinction,” said Tammara Van Ryn, executive director of the Commission. “Together, accredited land trusts stand united behind strong national standards ensuring the places people love will be conserved forever. In all, over 75 percent of private lands conserved by land trusts are now held by an accredited land trust.”

Each accredited land trusts meets extensive documentation requirements and undergoes a comprehensive review as part of its accreditation application. The process is rigorous and strengthens land trusts with systems that help landowners and communities achieve their goals. More information about land trust accreditation can be found at www.landtrustaccreditation.org.

The Commission is an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, a national land conservation organization working to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation across America. More information about the many benefits of land conservation is available at www.landtrustalliance.org.

 About STPAL

The Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land (STPAL) was founded in Georgia in 2012 and is a 501-C-3 trust based in Cobb County dedicated to responding to the need for preservation of undeveloped or restorable land in various areas and making it available for responsible use by local communities.  STPAL has taken ownership of over 9,000 acres of natural land across 23 properties in various counties in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.  For more information or a complete list of properties visit the STPAL website at www.stpal.org.

About the Land Trust Accreditation Commission

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission inspires excellence, promotes public trust and ensures permanence in the conservation of open lands by recognizing organizations that meet rigorous quality standards and strive for continuous improvement. The Commission, established in 2006 as an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, is governed by a volunteer board of diverse land conservation and nonprofit management experts. For more, visit www.landtrustaccreditation.org.

About the Land Trust Accreditation Commission

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission inspires excellence, promotes public trust and ensures permanence in the conservation of open lands by recognizing organizations that meet rigorous quality standards and strive for continuous improvement. The Commission, established in 2006 as an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, is governed by a volunteer board of diverse land conservation and nonprofit management experts. For more, visit www.landtrustaccreditation.org.

About the Land Trust Alliance

Founded in 1982, the Land Trust Alliance is a national land conservation organization that works to save the places people love by strengthening land conservation across America. The Alliance represents more than 1,100 member land trusts supported by more than 100,000 volunteers and 5 million members nationwide. The Alliance is based in Washington, D.C. and operates several regional offices. More information about the Alliance is available at www.landtrustalliance.org.

STPAL 925 acre Land Donation to the State of North Carolina

In 2015 STPAL donated the fee simple ownership interest of the 925 acre Ginger Creek Nature Preserve to the State of North Carolina. We are very excited to make this gift to the people of North Carolina. The land will remain permanently conserved and available for public benefit.  The State’s press release follows:

 
Lenoir, North Carolina
January 19, 2016

The Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land announced today that the 928-acre Little Beaver Creek Farm in Caldwell County has been donated to the state to be managed by the Research Stations Division of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The land, donated by the heirs of Tommy Johnson, had been in the Johnson family for decades. The North Wilkesboro native, had planned to donate the property to the state prior to his death. Johnson’s sons, Alan and Steve, offered to give the land to the state of NC in 2014, but the transaction did not close prior to year’s end.
STPL agreed to serve as intermediary until details could be worked out. The land trust owns conservation properties similar to Little Beaver Creek in Western North Carolina and throughout Georgia.
“Serving as a placeholder isn’t an uncommon role for our land trust,” said Bill Jones, STPAL founder and executive director. “More often, we take properties into permanent conservation, but accommodating both the Johnsons and the state was the right thing to do.”
The Research Stations Division will manage the property under the direction of David Schnake, management forester, as a working forest, while providing opportunities for research, teaching and demonstration for foresters and students.
“We are grateful for the Johnsons’ generous gift and the help of the Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land,” said Sandy Stewart, director of the NCDA&CS Research Stations Division. “Without determined conservation heroes like them, complicated transactions like this one wouldn’t happen.”

 

Why we work

So we have started a new year. We are still working on uncompleted projects from years past. We are sorting through exciting new opportunities. We are tired from December’s hectic work of completing six real estate closings through which we received the donation of 2,700 acres of natural land. Five properties are in Georgia and the sixth is our first Tennessee property. But we push on and here is why.

I like parks. I have lived very close to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Atlanta for the last 35+ years and spent my younger years living near a large municipal park. I have always been just a short walk, bike ride, or drive away from walking trails, creeks, ponds, and natural areas. When I walk certain trails with my current canine companion I am reminded of Buddy, Belfast, Spike, and Simon and the many times they were with me on the same trail. And even today as I wind down from a long week I am writing this blog post as one last work item before Junebug and I head out for a nice 2-3 mile hike to separate the week from the weekend.

If we don’t create new parks who will? I am not sure where new parks rank on most taxpayers’ and politicians’ priority lists, but I suspect it may not be high enough right now. It is becoming time that people need to find other ways to get things done besides waiting on the government to do it. Our basic game plan is to secure fee ownership of land and then figure out how to make it into a park. Ultimately we expect for most if not all of our properties to end up in the hands of local, state or the federal government. In some cases we have found that a city or county will have the resources to build a park, but not the land. In that case we are happy to give our land to them right away so that the park will get built. In other cases a county or city may not have the money for the land or to build a park. In that case we’ll look for ways to build the park and then give it to the city or county. In some cases the local governments have no interest in our land or in a park.  In those cases we will keep the land and look for local partnerships to help us fund, build, and care for the parks long term. Our ultimate goal is to create 100 new parks by 2034. It is lofty but as of now seems very attainable. 100 new parks! Permanently conserved and mandated to remain parks. How much good is there in that? Let’s go!

Great News in Villa Rica

It is official! There will soon be a new park in Villa Rica, Georgia. Read all about it below:

Information provided by the City of Villa Rica:

Donor:                         Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land

Name of Property:      Villa Rica Beaverland

Property Size:              159.25 acres | 2015 Fair Market Value: $704,900 (Douglas Tax Digest)

Location:                     N.E. of the intersection of Conners Road & Nally Road in Douglas County

Tax Parcel ID:             01800250001

The Property consists of 159.25 acres of undeveloped green space and is bordered by other forested and agricultural lands, single family residential tracts, three residential subdivisions, and one golf course. The Property will be protected from activities or land uses that would have a detrimental effect on the Conservation Purposes of the Property. The Property will be protected in perpetuity through a restricted deed and managed by the City of Villa Rica as an undeveloped natural conservation area in keeping with the Conservation Purposes and the deed restrictions.

The Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land acquired the property in 2014 to provide greenspace and provide for protection and enhancement of natural forest environments and native plant and wildlife species, protection of the wetlands and aquatic resources, specifically adjacent streams, including aquatic life, and an area suitable for forest and wildlife management, hiking, birdwatching, passive recreation and possible education activities related to local history and land use, natural history and natural systems. The Trust permanently limited the property’s usage by deed restriction so as to ensure future uses do not impact the conservation values of the protection of water quality and wildlife habitats, and to provide for the creation of nature-based outdoor recreation opportunities for the general public. The Trust designated that the property will be open for the regular use of the general public at no cost for low-impact nature based recreation opportunities such as hiking, biking, and nature observation along designated trails. When the Trust became aware of the City of Villa Rica’s desire to create a new passive recreation park it was obvious that we should transfer ownership of this property to the City for this purpose.

The City Council will take a formal vote to accept the gift at its public meeting on Thursday, October 29th, 2015.

The Mayor and Council is currently taking applications for its Recreation Advisory Commission. The purpose of the RAC is to make recommendations to the City Council regarding parks and recreation plans, policies, programs and projects. The RAC is composed of seven members who will serve three year terms. Those council-appointed individuals will serve as the steering committee together with the Director of Parks, Recreation and Leisure Services and representatives of the Trust to generate a master plan for approval and funding by the Mayor and City Council. We anticipate field trips to other passive parks throughout the metro Atlanta area to garner ideas in the planning process.

Examples of passive recreation activities:

  • Archery
  • Bicycling
  • Camping
  • Canoeing
  • Dog Park
  • Frisbee
  • Hiking and nature walks
  • Horseback riding
  • Kite-flying
  • Painting
  • Photography
  • Rustic picnic areas
  • Walking and jogging
  • Wildlife viewing and bird watching

The following criteria may assist with understanding whether an activity is passive, and therefore allowed:

  1. Will the Open Space resource values be diminished?
    • If YES then activity is not allowed
    • If NO continue to Criteria 2
  1. Will event effectively close or significantly limit use of the Open Space in whole or part to the public?
    • If YES then activity is not allowed
    • If NO continue to Criteria 3
  1. Will event leave anything behind and/or trace (even chalk marks, flags, litter, graffiti, waste, etc.)?
    • If YES then what is the trace?
    • If trace CANNOT be removed then activity is not allowed

Middle Age and Middle School

Why parks? I get that question all the time. People want to know why we started this organization for the purpose of building parks. Like many decisions the answer is a composite of many reasons.

First, I do enjoy parks.

Second, if we don’t create new parks who will?

Third, we had an opportunity.

And after editing out the longer responses to the first 3 reasons we finally come to the main reason. I am in my middle age and have a child in middle school. I may not be unique in that I have found that it is not always easy for middle age parents to have substantive conversations with middle school age children. When I ask mine to join me and our dog Junebug for a little hike at the park near our home I usually don’t get a positive response. Sometimes I just go to the park with Junebug. But other times I push a little harder and the hike starts out with a somewhat grumpy middle aged person and a somewhat more grumpy middle school student that would rather be watching videos on an iPad. But off we go. We hike along noticing interesting mushrooms and flowering plants. And Junebug chases the squirrels. And we stop to skip stones into a pond. And we see a deer or a snake or a butterfly.  And before long I notice something else.  We have been talking. I hear about paper that is due next week. I hear about a new friend. We talk about conflicts or problems. We share funny stories. We talk.

And that is why we build parks.

Happy Trails

Bill Jones