In 2017 Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land donated 326 acre Gum Branch Nature Preserve to Camden (County, GA) Public Service Authority (PSA) and in 2019 STPAL donated an additional 33 acre contiguous tract. Gum Branch Nature Preserve is perpetually conserved natural land within the King’s Bay zone of far SE Georgia. It sits a few miles west of St. Mary’s and Cumberland Island. It is in the upper reaches of Gum Branch, which is a meandering branch flowing generally eastward to waters of the Crooked River and Cumberland Sound. It originally was composed of flatwoods type long-leaf and slash pine forest with heavy blueberry and gallberry under-story. Interspersed with this type would have been open pine, wet savanna, hardwood areas containing various bays, oaks, and gums, and stream-side cypress, gum, oak, and maple swamp. The north boundary coincides with Laurel Island Parkway, which is a heavily traveled access to Kings Bay Navy Base.
These photos are current (January 2020) and reflect the PSA’s progress establishing Gum Branch Nature Preserve’s public recreation functions. Plans include hard surface bike and ped trail, natural surface trails, and disc golf course. STPAL is proud to have played a part in the creation of this new public park and look forward to it being open for use.
December 28, 2019
Funding for Chimney Swift Tower and Educational Signage provided by:
Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Action Plan. Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan is a comprehensive strategy to conserve native species and the habitats they need before these animals, plants and places become more rare and costly to conserve or restore.
Click here for details and pictures: 2019 chimney swift tower and educational signage projects, Talking Rock Nature Preserve
December 27, 2019
Great news! The Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land received the donation of 18.5 acres of natural land now known as Cannongate Nature Preserve. The property is in Coweta County, GA. It will forever remain natural and be beneficial to the public.
December 19, 2019
Great news! The Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land received the donation of 35 acres of natural land known as Staraland Nature Preserve. The property is in north Cherokee County, GA contiguous to Garland Mountain Horse and Hiking Trails Park . It is exceptionally beautiful and interesting. The generous donor had the foresight and charitable intent to perpetually conserve the land prior to the donation. It will forever remain natural and be beneficial to the public.
Campbellton Creek Nature Preserve
The Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land (STPAL) in partnership with SORBA-ATLANTA and City of South Fulton has begun the public recreation, environmental support, and nature-based education building process at Campbellton Creek Nature Preserve (CCNP). The site is in the City of South Fulton near Fulton Industrial Blvd, Campbellton Road, and Camp Creek Parkway. CCNP is an 81.5 acre permanently conserved public use green space owned by STPAL. SORBA-ATLANTA is sponsoring the design, construction, and maintenance of the trail system!
We are looking for volunteers to be part of a Friends of the Park group.
More information, to support, or to volunteer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Preliminary Site Plan:
Plans include +/- 5 miles of multi-use trails for walking and mountain biking; nature education signage; native grass, shrub, fruit tree, & nut tree propagation with food forest characteristics; bike pump track; wildlife support elements; and other efforts to enhance the public use and conservation values of the property.
July 31, 2020: STPAL finalized a contract to plant an additional 70 acres with long leaf pine seedlings at Burke County Nature Preserve. The planting will occur in spring of 2021. This will be the third consecutive year of planting.
STPAL’s land holdings include many tracts that are undergoing environmental enhancement and restoration. One such tract is currently known as Burke County Natural Land. It is just south of Augusta, Georgia. The county seat of Burke County is the pretty town of Waynesboro.
This 354-acre tract consists of 95% old pasture and 5% wooded land and is generally bounded by small landowners and rural woodland/farmland tracts. The pasture is naturally succeeding to brush and tree saplings. The wooded areas are small clumps of mixed pine hardwood that was cutover prior to STPAL’s acquisition. The tract was originally a mix of longleaf pine on the sandier uplands, including some scrub oak and other hardwood. The lower, more moist areas would have been a hardwood and mixed pine hardwood forest. It is within the Fall Line Sand Hills, an important ecological region of Georgia. The Sand Hills are a narrow, rolling to hilly, highly dissected belt stretching across the state from Augusta to Columbus. The region is composed primarily of Cretaceous and Eocene marine sands and clays deposited over the crystalline and metamorphic rocks of the Piedmont. Soils are mostly excessively well drained and low in nutrients, although soils in some areas contain more loamy and clayey horizons. The driest sites have typical sandhill vegetation characterized by longleaf pine and turkey oak. Other areas have shortleaf-loblolly pine forests or mixed oak-pine forests.
The land was almost certainly put into cotton production after the native long leaf pines were harvested. It was largely neglected for many years prior to STPAL’s acquisition in 2016. The neglect allowed kudzu, Bermuda grass, Japanese honeysuckle, Callery or Bradford pear, Chinese privet, chinaberry, crabgrass, bahia grass, and other non-native plants to proliferate.
In considering STPAL’s land holdings it was likely the least beneficial to wildlife and people. It was certainly the least attractive. So STPAL prioritized it for an intensive rehabilitation process with the goal to maximize its value as conservation land and then open it up for no cost recreational and educational public usage. It is currently available for public small game hunting via the Georgia Department of Natural Resources VPA program.
In 2018 the STPAL Board made the hard decision to utilize chemical spraying to aggressively clear 60 acres of well-established invasive plants. The vote was not unanimous. But the primary aspect that motivated the action was that the one-time spraying would allow for a dramatic transformation that over time should outweigh any harm done by the chemicals. There was careful consideration of the chemicals, the application process, and the area sprayed (i.e. not near any water). The Georgia Forestry Commission was hired to cut a grid of fire breaks to allow for future ground cover control to be done via controlled burning.
In March of 2019 54 acres were hand planted with long leaf pine seedlings. Once the seedlings emerge from the bush stage (3-5 years) appropriate native ground cover will be established. The general plan going forward is to plant two additional +/- 50-acre sections in long leaf pine with a gap year between each planting. The long leaf seedlings are planted at a density that should yield a sustainable natural density. There is a failure rate for the seedlings of 10-35% which should create a randomness to the forest’s density. Native appropriate plants will be added to the open spaces. There are no plans to ever do any commercial harvesting of the long leaf pines. The areas not planted with long leaf pines will be transitioned into other typical native habitats with areas such as mixed pine & hardwood stands, grasslands, and transition areas. The goal is to return the tract to its presumed native state. It may take 75-100 years to achieve, but it should be worth the wait.
As the site develops it will be improved as habitat for wildlife such as white-tailed deer, raccoon, opossum, parula warbler, gray squirrel, hooded warbler, tufted titmice, northern bobwhite, cardinal, nuthatch, blue jays, field sparrow, yellow-breasted chat, several woodpecker species, northern mockingbird, green frog, southern toad, bobcat, gray fox, fox squirrel, wood rat, vole, and shrew. A variety of native reptiles and amphibians are likely including various non-venomous water snakes, black rat snake, copperhead snake, canebrake rattlesnake, green tree frog, fence lizard, and green anole.
Rare and endangered plant species could likely include Caroline pink, Georgia aster, sandhill rosemary, hooded pitcher plant, pink lady slipper, and sandhill milkvetch. Rare and endangered wildlife could likely include Bachmann’s sparrow, Southeastern pocket gopher, painted bunting, and southern hog-nose snake. There should be neotropical migrants like the gray catbird, yellow-breasted chat, field sparrow, loggerhead shrike, and prairie warbler.
To date STPAL has about $30,000 invested in the restoration process and pays about $6,000 in annual property taxes for this site.
The following is a quick summary of STPAL’s primary park building project – Talking Rock Nature Preserve as well as the most up to date trail map.
They are split into 3 groups based on STPAL’s commitment to providing low-impact outdoor recreation, environmental stewardship, and educational opportunities for the local community.
Something good is happening in Atlanta…. a new park!
STPAL has received the donation of .4 acres of natural land in the North Druid Hills area of Atlanta. It is a triangle shaped corner lot that will be a permanent pocket park for the community. The generous land donor used goats to clear out an English ivy infestation prior to the donation! Over the next 6-12 months it will get a walking path, unobtrusive signage, native plant plantings, benches, and other elements that will improve the land for nature and the community.
Want to help with this park?: email@example.com
If you’ve been following STPAL’s development for a while, then you’d know that in October of 2015 we donated 160 acres of greenspace known as Connors Road Park to the city of Villa Rica.
Well, now the Villa Rica, with the help of PATH Foundation and Kaizen Collaborative, is planning to build out a 22.6-mile trail system all throughout the city known as the Gold Nugget Trail, and, of course, a major section of this trail is going to be built all throughout Connors Road Park!
While the development of these trails may be a couple years away, this is still great news!
Ever since we gave the land to Villa Rica, STPAL was hoping that the city would build it out into a proper passive recreation park, and what is a park without walking and biking trails?
The story of Connors Road Park is far from over, so expect us to keep you all up to date with any important happenings on the project.
If you are interested in how the Gold Nugget Trail system will look or how it came to then feel free to check out the presentation at the link below.
July 2, 2015. Representatives from STPAL, the City of Villa Rica, and community members touring Connor Road Park. This group worked to complete the transfer of the park on October 23, 2015.
So much has been happening at Talking Rock Nature Preserve that it is truly staggering! Without further ado, here are some of the new and exciting developments going on:
The 2.75-mile green trail loop (now known as Jon’s Trail) was completed. It was designed and built to be smooth with no roots and rocks. It’s great for mountain bikers of all ages and abilities with no steep hills anywhere to be found. Newbies and veteran bikers often come up to us and say that it’s one of the most fun trails in North Georgia!
The blue trail loop of 1.25 miles (now known as Nitro Nix South), as well as the Preserve parking lot, has been completed. This second loop is fundamentally the same as the Jon’s Trail, but it is a much faster ride that is meant for cyclists with a little more mountain biking experience.
North of the parking lot is the other completed blue trail (now known as Nitro Nix North). It is a 1-mile down-and-back that stretches from our parking lot to the Northern-most point of the property. This trail is slightly more tricky to ride than its neighbor, Nitro Nix South.
The fourth and fifth trails, stretching 0.3 and 0.7 miles respectively, were also completed. They are both designed for foot traffic and those looking to run or walk through nature without needing to constantly be on the lookout for oncoming cyclists. The 0.3-mile orange trail (now known as Pollinator Walk) takes you from Jon’s Trail up to the pollinator garden and beehives at an easy incline designed with small children and elderly people in mind. The 0.7-mile red trail (now known as Charlie’s Trail) is a loop that is slightly more difficult than Pollinator Walk but makes up for it by taking you through some of the most beautiful parts of the Preserve including a pleasant walk alongside a bubbling creek. This trail is unique in that before 5:00 PM it is a foot traffic only trail, but after that, it becomes a shared trail for both bikers and walkers/runners.
For the younger riders who are looking for something a little bit different, we have also begun construction on a bike park at Talking Rock. It currently has a small pump track and a downhill run we hope to unveil in the near future with 2-4 more downhill runs still in the planning stages.
Map of the Property 6/27/18
We have also begun planning out the final 5-6 miles of trails. We would love to create an enormous trail section with steep hills, jumps, rock gardens, and other features for serious riders that will stretch from the northern border of the Preserve to the southern border. It will be the hardest trail by far (a double black diamond), and we are currently in the process of raising funds for its construction.
We celebrated our Trail-Dedication ceremony and Bike Demo Day on May 5th, 2018. With the help of Cartacay Bike Shop, Jamis Bikes, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Anytime Fitness, we were able to come together and celebrate all of our hard work and test the capacity of the Preserve at the same time! So many of the local community and volunteers came out to mark the day as a truly special celebration for people all over North Georgia. We hope to put on more events and celebrations as the Preserve continues to expand and solidify itself as an important part of the community.
The main infrastructure at the Preserve has been established as well. Much of the signage has been installed, a porta-john near the parking lot has been installed, bike borders are now at road-trail intersections, message boards with maps and other park information have been put up, and now, we have more than 30 wooden benches and 10 picnic tables that community members can sponsor. We even built a closed-off apiary for beekeepers in the area to house their beehives and teach others all about bees and other North Georgia pollinators.
Speaking of the local Pickens community, we have saved one of our proudest accomplishments for last. We have established a successful community group for the park called the Friends of Talking Rock! We have about 20 core members in the group as well as many others who are involved in one way or another. The Friends of Talking Rock have even begun to divide into a few smaller subgroups. Groups interested in hiking, running, conservation, and beekeeping have all sprung up because of the Friends. And, we believe that none of the successes of the group could have been accomplished without the excellent help of Susan Crain, who acted as a paid consultant and wonderful volunteer for the project.
Thanks to everyone who has helped make the first six months of this Talking Rock Nature Preserve experiment the grand slam that it is, and we hope to be here in another six months with even more great news to share.