Talking rock nature preserve has Reopened

As of May 1st Talking Rock Nature Preserve has reopened for public use. It is a nature preserve as it’s first priority and is not meant for heavy recreational use. Our reason for reopening is for local hikers and mtn bikers to be able to stay local. We encourage everyone to use their local recreation opportunities. Stay home or at least stay close to home. If you arrive at TRNP and it is crowded or even close to being crowded please leave and come back at another time. Respect other park users and their social distancing efforts. Be kind, respectful, and accommodating.

COVID19 Announcement

March 26, 2020

All STPAL sites are closed for public usage until STAY AT HOME directives end. It is unfortunate as this seems like the perfect time to get outside and enjoy nature. We initially hoped to remain open, but reevaluated after seeing reports of other outdoor recreation sites being too crowded for safe social distancing.

STPAL Update 02/08/2020

  • STPAL 2019 land acquisitions:
    • 18 acre Cannongate Nature Preserve in Coweta County GA. It will have a parking area and +/- 2 mile loop bike/hike trail for public usage established in the first half of 2020.
    • 35 acre Staraland Nature Preserve in Cherokee County GA. It’s conservation values are exceptionally high. Current priority is working to acquire contiguous and nearby tracts to expand the nature preserve.
    • Both tracts are now permanently conserved creating much needed natural land protection and active environmental stewardship in suburban Atlanta.
  • 80 acre Campbellton Creek Nature Preserve project in the City of South Fulton GA is heading quickly towards breaking ground with phase 1 consisting of 3 miles of hike/bike trails expected to open by the end of 2020. This site is very close to Fulton Industrial Parkway and SW City of Atlanta. http://campbellton-creek-nature-preserve
  • With support from IMBA (International Mountain Bike Association) STPAL hosted a public meeting attended by about 60 interested people on February 1st to launch the Friends of Sassafras group for the 1,025 acre Sassafras Nature Preserve project in Gilmer County, GA. This ambitious project is 2-3 years from beginning the bulk of the park creation. It will require much more planning and money than our typical projects.
  • There will a planting of another 25,000+ long-leaf pine seedlings at Burke County Nature Preserve (near Augusta GA) in February or March. This 354 acre environmental restoration project is the conversion of fallow pasture land into native habitat. Passive public recreation and educational elements will be established over time.
  • .4 acre Jan Hill Lane Nature Preserve in the north Druid Hills area of Atlanta had a walking path and other park elements established in 2019. It was STPAL’s first urban small parcel acquisition and a model for additional similar projects. It provides important public green space in a heavily developed area. Bird supportive elements will be added in 2020. A dog waste station and initial signage will be installed in February.
  • Environmental stewardship has become the primary focus at 210 acre Talking Rock Nature Preserve following the successful creation of 10 miles of hike/bike trails. In 2019 we completed the design and installation of educational signage along with a chimney swift tower using funding from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. http://talking-rock-nature-preserve-2019-chimney-swift-tower-and-nature-education-signage-project-completed
  • STPAL’s primary park building efforts will be focused on the I-85 corridor south from Atlanta for the next +/- 2 years. This provides efficiencies in travel and partnerships. We have 5 ongoing or pending projects that make a nice geographical line: Campbellton Creek NP, Cannongate NP, City of Newnan, Sweetwater Pines NP (near Callaway Gardens), and West Point Lake NP.

  • In early January 2020 STPAL completed a full IRS audit of our 2017 financials. The agent closed the case with only one trivial issue found, no action needed, and stated appreciation for STPAL’s recordkeeping and processes. STPAL has always and will continue having our financials independently and fully audited annually by a CPA firm that specializes in non-profit auditing. This made the IRS audit as painless as an IRS audit can be.
  • STPAL’s accounting and other internal processes are humming along allowing for mission related efforts to increase.
  • Organizational funding is stable. Establishing fundraising processes leading to creation of an endowment fund for long term stability is a primary objective of 2020.
  • STPAL and our projects have become attractive to grant funders. We have increased our grant applications and in 2019 received funding for specific projects via private and government grants.
  • STPAL’s Board of Directors’ priorities are near and long term staffing strategies, board development, and updating the strategic plan.
  • STPAL is starting its 9th year. Time flies.

Gum Branch Nature Preserve

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.

Talking Rock Nature Preserve 2019 chimney swift tower & nature education signage project

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

Cannongate Nature Preserve created following donation of natural land to STPAL

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.

Property details:

Cannongate Nature Preserve

Staraland Nature Preserve donated to STPAL

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.

Property details:




Campbellton Creek Nature Preserve

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:

Site Location:

location map

Preliminary Site Plan:

ParkPlan_v2 7 10 191024_1Plans 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.

Burke County Natural Land restoration


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.

Long leaf pine seedling at Burke County Natural Land. 05 07 19

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.

Talking Rock Nature Preserve – State of the Park Report

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.


  • Completed
    • Eight Miles of multi-use trails for mountain biking and hiking completed (Over 10 miles available as of 07-04-2019!)
    • Three geocaches hidden around park
    • Several community rides on the trails
    • On-site map detailing trail system
    • Bike repair station/pump at the current parking lot
  • In Process
    • An additional miles of multi-use trails
    • An additional parking lot
    • Bike racks near trailheads
    • More trail maps near trailheads
  • Aspirational
    • Disc golf course
    • Downhill track
    • Pump track
    • Additional geocaches
    • Small local races
    • Cast iron grills


  • Completed
    • The land is perpetually conserved
    • Trails were built sustainably
    • Butterfly and Bat houses
  • In process
    • Chimney swift tower (completed summer 2019!)
    • Planting native plants near the apiary (completed but more needed due to summer 2019 drought)
    • Planting native plants at Jon’s Corner (completed but more needed due to summer 2019 drought)
  • Aspirational
    • Become Pollinator Habitat certified by Environmental Education Alliance
    • Become Wildlife Sanctuary certified by Atlanta Audubon Society


  • Completed
    • Three message boards across the preserve
    • Apiary with a partnered beekeeper training program
    • Field study site for Reinhardt biology department
  • In process
    • Chimney swift tower (completed summer 2019!)
    • Wildlife education signage (will be completed in November 2019!)
  • Aspirational
    • Elementary school field trips to the preserve
    • Additional signage on the history of the land

12.17.18 TRNP Test Map 2-1