Cannongate Nature Preserve

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This property was donated to STPAL via fee simple deed transfer in 2019. Upon acquiring it STPAL filed a perpetual conservation deed restriction that requires public access and use as a park.

General description of Property
The approximately 18.8 acre Property exists as a strip of natural habitat located between I-85 and Cannongate Rd. and adjacent communities. It is located in NE Coweta County. The Property contains a small intermittent headwater branch which flows into Persimmon Creek which drains into a subdivision pond then becomes part of the Upper Flint River watershed.

The Property is approximately 99% wooded. Historically the Property would have been a mixture of oak and pine in the uplands with post oak, white oak, shortleaf pine, loblolly pine, and hickory predominating. The property appears to basically be natural regeneration from harvesting 40-50 years ago; a few older remnant trees are mixed with the younger trees. The natural hardwood forests are the most distinctive feature of the Property and comprise the majority of the Property. Powerline and road easements also exist on Property edges.

The Property is in the heavily suburbanized area of Coweta County. Development has not occurred due to the terrain and possible noise for I-85. Currrently, the Property serves as an effective sound barrier reducing noise to the communities adjacent the east side of Cannongate Rd. Additionally, the natural environment is pleasing to nearby residents and those traveling Cannongate Road. It also serves as useful habitat to terrestrial wildlife and native birds.

Topography:

topo map

Soils and geology
The Property is found in the Level III ecoregion known as the Piedmont. The Piedmont comprises a transitional area between the mountainous ecoregions to the northwest and the relatively flat Coastal Plain to the southeast. Geologically, it is a complex mosaic of Precambrian and Paleozoic metamorphic and igneous rocks with moderately dissected plains and isolated monadnocks (rounded hills). The soils tend to be finer-textured than in the coastal plain ecoregions. Once largely cultivated, much of this region has reverted to pine and hardwood woodlands, and, more recently, to sprawling urban and suburban areas. Subdivisions of the Piedmont ecoregion in Georgia include the Southern Inner Piedmont, the Southern Outer Piedmont, the Carolina Slate Belt, the Talladega Upland, and the Pine Mountain Ridges.

The Property is more specifically located in the Southern Lower (Outer) Piedmont subsection of the Piedmont Ecoregion of Georgia. The Southern Lower Piedmont ecoregion has lower elevations, less relief, and less precipitation than the Southern Inner Piedmont. Loblolly-shortleaf pine is the major forest type, with less oak-hickory and oak-pine than in the Southern Inner Piedmont. Gneiss, schist and granite are the dominant rock types, covered with deep saprolite and mostly red, clayey subsoils. The southern boundary of the ecoregion occurs at the Fall Line, where unconsolidated coastal plain sediments overlay the metamorphic and igneous rocks of the Piedmont.

Soils of the Cecil soil series make up approximately 46% (10.5 acres) of the Property soils. Lesser amounts of Pacolet and Madison soils (7.0 acre) also occur on the Property and 1.2 acres occurs as Riverview-Chewacla along the minor intermittent stream course. USDA/NRCS classifies farmland as to relative value for agriculture. These classes include Prime Farmland and Farmland of Statewide Importance. The soils of the Property are classed as not prime farmland, except for the Riverview-Chewacla, which is classified as Farmland of Statewide Importance. This series is also rated as a low level hydric soil.

Water resources
The Property contains a minor intermittent branch which flows into Persimmon Creek. This then joins Shoal Creek and then flows into Line Creek, which is a tributary of the Flint River. The Upper, Middle and Lower Flint River are designated as High Priority Species and Aquatic Community Species Streams by GA DNR.

The small intermittent branch head on the Property is dry most of the year, and it is rated as minimally hydric for agricultural purposes.

Vegetation and habitat
The approximate acreages of each area and habitat type are as follows: oak hickory pine forest (approximately18.7 acres); open land for parking area (0.1 acres). Oak Hickory Pine Forest occurs on this Property and is listed as high priority habitats in the Piedmont Ecoregion of Georgia by GADNR SWAP documents.

The oak hickory pine forest is located over the whole tract and contains mostly 40-plus year old trees. The dominant overstory species in this older forest are pignut hickory, southern red oak, white oak, and loblolly pine. Other overstory species include post oak, sweetgum, tulip poplar, and scarlet oak. The midstory and understory includes a mix of woody and herbaceous vegetation, including muscadine vines, sweetgum and oak saplings, greenbrier, winged elm, Japanese honeysuckle and blackberry. There are small patches, less than 2 acres total, of clusters of loblolly pine. These groupings, individually, are not large enough to break out from the dominant type and adhere to the type definition of Oak, Hickory, Pine forest.

The only true open area is the parking area noted above. It is currently composed of domestic grasses and native weeds.

The riparian zone is a very small intermittent drain and contains the same vegetative species as the nearby upland.

Exotic plant species were noted on the Property, including Japanaese honeysuckle, Chinese privet, and crabgrass.

Agricultural Resources
There are no agricultural areas on this Property.

Wildlife
Field signs and individual sightings during the field surveys noted the presence of the common wildlife species of the Piedmont Ecoregion of Georgia. This included raccoons, opossums, gray squirrels, nuthatches, and crows. Other mammals such as wood rats, voles, and shrews may also be present. A variety of native reptiles and amphibians are likely to be here including various non-venomous water snakes, rat snakes, king snakes, fence lizards, copperhead snake, green tree frog, fence lizard, and green anole. Numerous resident and migrant songbirds and other common landbirds were seen and heard while inspecting the tract; including cardinals, downy woodpeckers, blue jays, and others. Expect to find the normal complement of Piedmont region wildlife given the existing habitat types and surrounding land use.

Rare or endangered species known to exist
The technical teams for Georgia DNR SWAP identified 87 high priority animal species in the Piedmont ecoregion. These included 17 birds, 3 reptiles, 5 mammals, 3 amphibians, 11 mollusks, 29 fish, 8 aquatic arthropods, and 14 terrestrial arthropods. In addition, 66 species of high priority plants were identified for the Piedmont.

No endangered or threatened species are known to occur on the Property. A full rare species survey was not conducted, but suitable habitat exists for some rare species in habitat of the Property. Among rare and unusual plants for this region, the following are species found in the Georgia DNR SWAP documents that could occur on this site:

Cypripedium acaule (Pink ladyslipper)
Symphyotrichum georgianum ( Georgia aster)

These animal species of concern known to occur in the region around the Property may find suitable habitat in the hardwood forests:

Lampropeltis calligaster rhombomaculata (Mole king snake)
Additionally, l migrants like the black and white warbler, great crested flycatcher, wood peewee, and pine warbler, utilize mixed wood habitat; so could occur on this Property..

Cultural Resources
There was no evidence of historically or archeologically significant structures.

Scenic Character and Views from public roads/waters
The whole length of the Property is visible from Cannongate Road, I-85 and developments across the road. There is approximately 0.71 mile of road frontage on Cannongate Rd. and an equal amount from I-85, where it is visible across the interstate fence.

Existing man-made structures
The following man-made structures were noted on this tract: graded area for the parking area. See Part 1 Attachment 4 for the locations of these features.

Evidence of past disturbances
No evidence of heavy storms, fires, or other large scale events was noted during visit.

Former land uses
Evidence of past land use is noted in the surrounding well-established suburbanization. The most noticeable activity in the past 60 years has been earlier timber harvest and subsequent re-growth.

Current land uses
Current use is to be held for development. This is changing immediately though, and the tract will be held for it’s natural habitat features, low-impact outdoor recreation, such as hiking and biking. It is also important to the nearby Property holders that it serve as a natural wooded buffer to noise from the interstate. No other recent commercial uses have been made of the tract.

Management Plan
The overall plan is to use the tract for nature observation, hiking/outdoor recreation, and conservation value.

Zoning and local plan restrictions if relevant
There are no known relevant zoning or plan restrictions currently in force that affect the planned use of this property. The current county tax documents list the tract as R-3, single family residential.

Adjacent land attributes, uses, existing and potential conflicts
The Property is across Cannongate Rd from multiple house lots and I-85 borders on the west. The highway noise if the most noticeable outside attribute. Unless trespass occurs, there are no known conflicts between adjacent owners.

Amount and type of current public access and public use
Casual hiking and wildlife observation by community owners and the public occurs at current time.

Evidence of presence of hazardous waste
No evidence of hazardous waste was noted during field visit. Previous landowner obtained a Phase 1 study which indicated no evidence of any issues.

Proximity to other protected land
The Property is situated within 10 miles of several other protected lands including public and privately owned greenspace, and park tracts, though numbers are small considering population density. The protection of additional lands in proximity to existing protected lands will extend wildlife travel corridors, improve habitat availability and connectivity and the public with healthy natural environment for nature appreciation.

Summary of Conservation Values
Values protected include oak, hickory, pine forest. These items were also listed in section II-E above. Additionally, the healthy natural woodland provides a restful environment for casual hiking and wildlife appreciation

This protected Property will help conserve the nearby water resources by preventing erosion from land clearing for house lot development. noted in the Intrenchment Creek Restoration Project and contribute to protection of the waters of South River. The waters and environs of the Flint River basin are designated High Priority Species and Aquatic Community streams. Conserving high priority rivers and streams is of particular importance since protection of these hydrological systems through enhancement of stream buffers, and reduction of non-point pollution is critical for protecting water quality. Nonpoint-source pollution consists of mud, litter, bacteria, pesticides, fertilizers and a variety of other pollutants being washed into rivers and streams by rainwater.
In addition, the United States Forest Service has recognized the important public benefits provided by privately held woodlands, including the enhancement and protection of ground and surface water quality.

Protecting streams and rivers will also provide valuable riparian habitat to rare or unusual plants and animals occupying these unique areas. Protecting stream buffers will also provide travel and disperal corridors for many of the species needing protection in the surrounding habitats.

Protecting this Property provides high-quality natural wildland habitat. The site will preserve valuable natural areas containing High Priority Habitats in Georgia, including important habitat combinations for year-round resident songbirds and birds of prey, valuable stop-over and migration sites for many birds, rare and common, including some neotropical migrants whose numbers continue to decline. Also, the Property adds to the limited availability of Protected Lands in this area and provides a valuable scenic and sound buffer between I-85 and the nearby neighborhoods. Additionally, availability of public hiking and nature appreciation will be maintained and enhanced.

The High Priority habitats on the Property include: Oak, Hickory, Pine Forest.

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