Fall 2014 Newsletter

Thanks to our paid intern Will Coleman for producing this:


STPAL Fall2014 Newsletter final


We got the Boot!

October 3, 2014

Today we got the Boot!

STPAL’s newest land acquisition that we are tentatively calling “The Boot,” named after the shape of the property boundary, is located in Douglasville, GA, and contains 85 acres of forestland. The Boot is important for conservation because it contains one of the most ecologically intact habitats that STPAL owns within easy driving distance of Atlanta, GA. The Boot hosts the confluence of Bear Creek and Little Bear Creek, forming a large and rocky stream surrounded by hardwood forest. This creek then flows into the 505 acre Bear Creek Reservoir, which provides drinking water to Douglas County. The Boot has over 1,000 feet of lake frontage. The reservoir provides wonderful opportunities for canoeing, fishing, and bird watching. On our most recent monitoring visit, we observed two Great Blue Herons on the reservoir. Several miles of trail are already in place and functional, as well as an open campsite with a fire pit. Our first planned project will be to build a dock on the reservoir to serve as a boat launch, fishing point, and general spot to rest and relax by the water. We look forward to having this land used by scout troops, bird watchers, dog walkers, casual hikers, and all lovers of the outdoors!



2014 Membership Drive

2014 Membership Drive

The Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land, Inc. is a 501-C-3 public charity organized for the purpose of preserving and protecting land, waterways, and wildlife habitat while providing public access and benefit. Since forming a short 31 months ago we have been able to acquire fee simple ownership of approximately 3,000 acres of land in Georgia and North Carolina which we have permanently conserved through deed restriction. All but one of these properties were donated to us. We were able to purchase one property using funds raised by a group of neighbors that wanted to protect a specific natural area near their homes.

While our primary task is monitoring and protecting the conservation value of the properties we are also using these lands to provide public benefit and access. We are committed to making these properties available for science education and passive recreation. Passive recreation includes such activities as hiking, photography, nature observation, and quiet enjoyment.

In order to build public awareness and support for STPAL’s work we are engaging in our first annual membership drive. Our goal is to have 250 supporting members with a cumulative donated amount of $7500 by the end of 2014. The funds raised will be used to purchase permanent signage for each of our current nine properties. The minimum annual donation to be a Supporting Member is $20. As a supporting member you’ll receive our newsletter and invitations to events, but you won’t have oversight responsibility or liability. We hope that you will consider becoming an inaugural Supporting Member!




It Takes Two to Tango!

STPAL is now in the toddler stage or is it the terrible Twos? We’ve gone from an idea just a short 30 months ago to owning 3,000 acres of conservation land spread from southeast Georgia to northwest North Carolina. Like most two year olds we’ve fallen down here and there but we’ve learned how to walk. And so we walk. And occasionally we run a bit. But we want to dance and that takes partners. It takes two to tango!

We have the land. It is conserved and we are charged with protecting and enhancing its conservation value. We are doing fine with that. We’ve made a few new trails. We improved the habitat diversity in a few places. We’ve taking steps to prevent poaching and other improper uses. But these things are just walking. We want to dance and we need partners.

We want to partner with at least one educational institution for each property. We have called and emailed many public high schools but can’t seem to get a response. We had multiple meetings with a University but a shift in their personnel left us back at square one. We need help making connections at schools. We have no preconceived limits or requirements. We are open to considering any usage of our properties that advances science education and research without harming the land.

We are interested in habitat development and support. Development has shrunk the open land available for many species. We need help finding methods and funding for our properties to reach their potential as nature preserves. Our best effort to date involves the Audubon Society. We are working with them in North Carolina to create better habitat for the Golden Winged Warbler. We are also interested in creating environments that are beneficial for bats, bees, monarch butterflies and other pollinators. If anyone has relevant contacts or even just enough interest to do some research on our behalf it would help us to help these fragile populations.

We want the general public to use our properties for passive recreation and enjoyment. This includes hiking, nature observing, photography, and such. We need help creating trails, access points and signage.

Please consider if you can help in any way. Just providing relevant contacts would be enough!


These boots can tango anywhere!


Work Day!

We are having a work day on May 10, 2014 on the Pumpkinvine Creek property near Dallas Georgia.


  • Trail Maintenance
  • Trail Building
  • Trash and Junk removal
  • Privy Raising (building a compost outhouse)
  • Boundary Marking


Easy access from anywhere in Metro Atlanta, good parking area, good people and a free (really!) lunch!

Contact Bill (bill.jones (at) stpal.org with questions or to volunteer.

It will be Mother’s Day weekend so give a little love to Mother Earth.


2013 Recap

2013 recap

Two weeks ago marked the second anniversary of a thought to start a public non-profit organization with a mission to create public parks. As the idea developed it grew to include caring for conservation land and improving science education. Since then we have discovered and embraced a new range of possibilities for creating public benefit using conservation land.

In 2013 we made progress in forming relationships with other non-profit organizations. The conversation begins with a question. “How can your use of our land enhance the public benefit of your mission?” It is a simple question for sure, but absolutely exciting. We are open to a range of ideas.  Among our current projects that we are hoping to launch in 2014 in conjunction with other non-profits and educational institutions are a new farmer incubation program involving United Nations refugee immigrants, a field biology lab in conjunction with a public high school and large state university, and wetland and forest restoration projects on multiple properties.

Our fundraising efforts have been meager at best. Unlike many non-profits we are so busy doing our work that we seem to neglect raising money. This is definitely something that we have to improve, but we remain optimistic that if we create enough public good the money will follow. Is it naïve? Maybe. Does it reflect our inherent optimism and confidence? Yes.

We continue to attract new Board leadership and volunteers. In seems we have the same approach to recruiting people as we do with fundraising. If we do enough good work, good people will find us.

The 2013 Stats:

We were given fee simple ownership of 4 properties with a total of about 2,500 acres of land. They are all perpetually conserved by deed restriction.

We participated in a project that ended with us making our first land purchase  and conserving it. It will become a passive public park. The Georgia Conservancy was a big help with this project.

We were given land in North Carolina which was our first outside of Georgia.


Questions and Comments: Bill Jones, Executive Director bill.jones@stpal.org

A Little Help?

We need some help. The very idea to start this organization happened in December of 2011. A lot has happened since then but we are still a baby. We need help in all areas, but here are some specific current needs. Some are big and some are little. Some are weekend projects and some are ongoing. But there are all the things that we need to get done, but just can’t seem to get them done.


Importance and Time Frame / Urgency: Needs to be done, but we are getting by

Work Load and Process: This is an ongoing project. Step one is going back to catch us up, but we really don’t have that many transactions. Going forward we can send a monthly spreadsheet to be entered or our executive director can be taught to use it once it is set up and rolling.

Privy at Pumpkinvine Creek

Location: Pumpkinvine is the 110 acre property in Paulding County near Dallas

Importance: We are committed to public access and public benefit with our properties but to date we are still building out the needed infrastructure.

Time Frame / Urgency: We put in a parking area and access trail into the heart of the property. We engaged Kennesaw State to be involved with the property. We told the land donor family that we would have an event and open the property this year. We committed to the State that we would have public access. We need publicity. But to be fair we don’t need the privy to be open the property. But to have the privy really shows that we are serious and ambitious about creating a valuable public asset. We will make it ADA compliant because we are that committed.

Work Load: This is a 2-3 day project. We have three volunteers that have offered to help. They are all old and retired but they have game. One is a master carpenter and frequent builder of nice tree houses for friends and families. One is an architect. And one has built and installed these privies on the Appalachian Trail. He and our executive director went and did maintenance on the one in the Blood Mountain WMA this past winter.

Process: Go to the site to evaluate placement and size of the privy with our executive director and these three guys. Then go eat BBQ and decide how to proceed. Get the blueprints off the internet and figure out the materials needed. The guys will help determine material need or may just do it. Probably build the walls, floor and roof somewhere off site. The roof is optional. There is no plumbing. It works through organic composting. Have a privy-raising on the site. Bonus Points: get someone to donate the material cost ($2-3k I think) in exchange for the right to name the privy. Double Secret Bonus Points- we need privies on other properties too.


Location: All properties

Importance: We are committed to public access and benefit with our properties but to date we have yet to create public use on any.

Time Frame / Urgency:  The one for Pumpkinvine needs to be done when the privy is ready. The others can wait.

Work Load: This is a quick project

Process: Figure out what the sign should say. The obvious things are the name of the property, our logo, and in the event of an emergence call 911. We’ll also need rules and a statement. The statement should reference something about it being conservation land or a nature preserve. The rules should be common sense stuff. Look at other park signs. Figure out the best materials in consideration of cost, durability, legibility, vandal “proof” and consistent with what a sign on conservation land should look like.


Importance: time will tell

Time Frame / Urgency:   whenever

Work Load: Not all that much really

Process: Help find our executive director opportunities to speak in front of groups: any group, any size, and any time. We can tailor a talk to fit the audience. We won’t beg for land, money or volunteers.

Small Donor Fundraising

Process: Make a plan and help launch it

Importance: Money matters

Time Frame / Urgency:   Needs doing

Work Load: Not all that much really

Process: Figure out a process to go after small donors ($50 to $250). This can be done with an email that we can forward to our networks with a link to our soon to be launched new web site’s fundraising page. The key is creating an email that is compelling, concise and motivates the click through to the site.

Large Donor Fundraising

Process: Make a plan and help launch it

Importance: Big money really matters

Time Frame / Urgency:   Needs doing

Work Load: Not all that much really

Process: Figure out a process to go after large donors ($1000+). Develop a strategy and stories. One example is the privy. The privy message is great. We need it to further science education. This is the first property that this ambitious new group has opened. It is quirky and fun. Naming it after a friend in honor of a big birthday or such would be hilarious among the right crowd. Look for other stories. Go to the Kennesaw State Foundation and see if they or their members will help since their science department and one their clubs will be using the property. Set our executive director up with meetings with generous people that might appreciate our mission.

Bush Hog

Location: Our Oconee County property on Boyd Road

Importance: the weeds are growing

Time Frame / Urgency:   Needs doing by year end

Work Load: Not all that much really

Process: It is a 50 acre former pasture. It needs bi-annual cutting just to stay in control. There are very nearby and even contiguous neighbors that have or could get the equipment. We have been meaning to meet these folks and tell them that we are fine with their kids riding bikes and playing on the property. So one option is to go scout around one Saturday with one of our board members and attempt to speak to folks and hope someone offers to do it for free or cheap. Or look at Craigslist in that area and other sources to try to find someone that does it. We have no idea how much it should cost so step one may be to get an idea of that.

Annual Aerial or Satellite Photos of each Property

Importance: would be great to have

Time Frame / Urgency:   Needs doing by year end

Work Load: Not all that much really

Process: We are required by the State and Fed to create and store an annual monitoring report of our properties. We would like to include an aerial or satellite for each year with the boundary shown. Sometimes we’ll get lucky and Google Earth will have the current year image. Part of the trick is overlaying the boundary and having a way to easily drop it on each subsequent annual image. We have done it but it was trial and error. What we need is to get it done for now and create instructions so it can be done again.

Schools and Scout Groups

Location:  all of our properties

Importance: want not need

Time Frame / Urgency:   none

Work Load: really depends

Process: We’d like to connect either a school or Scout group with each of our properties. The relationship will vary based on the age of the kids involved and the property. If you know someone involved in a school or Scout group tell them about us and see if they can think of how we could connect.

A Poem by Marvin Bell

Around Us


by Marvin Bell


We need some pines to assuage the darkness
when it blankets the mind,
we need a silvery stream that banks as smoothly
as a plane's wing, and a worn bed of 
needles to pad the rumble that fills the mind,
and a blur or two of a wild thing
that sees and is not seen. We need these things
between appointments, after work,
and, if we keep them, then someone someday,
lying down after a walk
and supper, with the fire hole wet down,
the whole night sky set at a particular
time, without numbers or hours, will cause
a little sound of thanks--a zipper or a snap--
to close round the moment and the thought
of whatever good we did

– See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16765#sthash.qFMUjcKg.dpuf

Agricultural Conservation Land


Farm land is not the first image that comes to mind when thinking about conservation land. There are two aspects to conservation on agricultural land. The first involves programs that foster sustainable farming practices. The other provides financial incentives that keep agricultural land from being transferred into other uses.

Best Management Practices on agricultural land include protecting water resources from pollutants that can either cause contamination from slow buildup by long term usage or sudden accidental release.  Other BMPs include the control and processing of animal waste; soil protection through grazing control, crop rotation, and nutrient management (lest we repeat the dust bowl); proper irrigation usage; silt management; and other methods that protect the land for future generations of farmers.

For more detailed information on farming BMPs see this September 2013 publication: http://gaswcc.georgia.gov/sites/gaswcc.georgia.gov/files/2013AgManual_Intro%2BCh1.pdf

The other aspect is the effort to keep agricultural land in use as agricultural land. For the last 40 years America has seen a decline in medium size family farms. There are a number of reasons for this but research indicates that one is that young people aren’t as willing to make the financial investment required, work 12-16 hours a day, and possibly earn less than a similarly situated farmer made 30 years ago. Family farmers also frequently have to work a non-farm job to make ends meet. One way to help farmers is to offer transferable tax incentives through conservation easements. These incentives can allow them to purchase equipment, provide a financial safety net, or pay off their land mortgage. We don’t currently hold any agricultural easements but we hope to have some soon. We want to be involved in helping preserve family farms. Please contact us with any questions or comments.


Cutting Down Trees

So, if we are supposed to be taking care of conservation land should we have forestry crews on some of our properties this fall? Yes, we should.

First let’s consider the history of forestry in Georgia. If you want the long answer go here: http://www.gatrees.org/about-us/history/index.cfm  and here: http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/geography-environment/environmental-history-georgia-overview

If you want the short answer: Timber production has been very important to Georgia landowners and businesses starting in the 1930s. Timber companies owned huge portions of land across the state. Most undeveloped land has been used for pine production. Land planted as a pine plantation does not make a good forest.

Frankly a planted pine forest is really only ideal for pine harvesting. But they do offer value for water protection, soil structure and enrichment, carbon sequestration, and of course there are some animal species that thrive in such an environment. These land tracts also play an important role in alleviating pressure on natural forests for timber and fuel wood production. There is still some good environmental value in a properly managed forest plantation.

A natural forest has a variety of trees and a natural density. A natural density is such that the tree canopy keeps the forest floor from becoming thick with growth, but not so dense that trees aren’t able to reach their potential. The tree population also has a diversity of tree ages unlike our properties in which the trees were all planted at the same time.

The properties that we are thinning were clear cut and replanted with pine seedlings at some point in their history. These properties are so dense now that the trees are crowding each other which caused the forests to fall apart. The weakest trees died. Even the comparatively strong trees aren’t all that good because of all of the competition for sun, water, space and nutrients that they have dealt with throughout their lives. As trees fall they become potential hosts for pine beetles which can devastate a forest.

We have consulted with Georgia DNR foresters prior to cutting any trees and use their best practices recommendations when we plan the harvests. During the initial harvests we selectively cut between 40-50% of the trees in a pine plantation area. This allows for the remaining trees to begin reaching their potential. As a rule of thumb a pine tree lives about 40 years. Our properties haven’t been harvested for at least 20 years which is about 8 years too long. This means we will get on a cycle of thinning trees every 8 years and after two more harvests we’ll have the forests in a natural state.

The harvest process leaves behind what foresters call logging roads but we call hiking and biking trails. They also leave behind a couple of landing areas which can become parking areas, camping areas, and other uses. We also receive revenue which we reinvest in to the properties.

So yes, we are cutting trees. But our forests will be all the better for having done so.