Tag Archives: Georgia

We care about you on GA Gives Day

gacnp_cmyk_logo_2016_990STPAL cares about you on Georgia Gives Day and that’s why we conserve land.

Funding will support our efforts to design a story map about STPAL properties, lead a volunteer build of park trails, plant pollinator gardens, host nature programs and more. With dozens of parcels of conserved land envisioned for public use and environmental education, we are committed to conserve and activate these Georgia spaces for you!

15,000+ acres
23 properties (19 more coming)
in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina.

To donate, visit https://www.gagivesday.org/c/GGD/  and type STPAL in the search bar!

Call for speakers at Georgia Trail Summit 2017 due 11/15

Would you like to be a speaker?  Or have a suggestion for someone we should contact?

Our theme is Plan. Fund. Build. Manage.

The program will be heavy on how-to sessions with practical content on the full lifecycle of successful trails, from concept and construction to operations and long-term sustainability.  Share your proven approach or innovative trail project with a broad, statewide audience. Or lead a mobile workshop sharing the latest techniques.

All sponsorship levels include free registrations. AICP CM credits available.

Submit your RFP here. Deadline November 15.

Georgia Trail Summit joins STPAL, forming new, winning partnership

ATLANTA –  The Georgia Trail Summit is maturing.  Now in its fourth year, the popular conference for Georgia’s trail community is moving under the new wing of a strong land conservation group.

Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land (STPAL), founded in 2011, will assume fiscal and administrative responsibilities for the Georgia Trail Summit (GTS), making it their signature annual event by providing a new home for its future success.  The synergies between both groups will make each one stronger and even more effective. In the process, a full-time position was created for Trail Summit director Tracie Sanchez who previously chaired the event as a volunteer for the first three years.  In her new role as director of community engagement and outreach for STPAL, her time will be divided between planning and implementing the Georgia Trail Summit, her top priority, and increasing awareness for STPAL’s innovative work creating public parks, conserving natural land, and encouraging environmental education.

tas-btj“As a proven leader in Georgia’s trail community, Tracie’s skills are an ideal fit to enhance STPAL’s mission while continuing to build valuable partnerships as we strengthen and grow the Georgia Trail Summit,” explains Bill Jones, executive director of STPAL and founding member of the Georgia Trail Summit.  “Our work at STPAL dovetails beautifully with the vision of the Trail Summit.”  Their goal is to encourage a connected trail network in every corner of the state.  Jones adds, “Many of STPAL’s properties are ideal for both linear parks and trail networks which complement and accelerate the Trail Summit’s mission.”

The 2017 Georgia Trail Summit is set for April 20-22 in Columbus, site of the longest urban whitewater course in the world and other trail-friendly projects. The 2017 Summit’s theme is Plan. Fund. Build. Manage.

About the Georgia Trail Summit:  The Summit attracts about 200 people every spring for an informative, three-day event featuring outstanding speakers, mobile workshops highlighting the host city’s trails, and networking parties.  Their vision is to help groups build a connected, statewide trail system in every corner of the state bolstered by collaboration, sharing resources and knowledge.

Previously, MillionMile Greenway served as the 501 c3 umbrella organization for the Georgia Trail Summit and donated the initial seed money to launch the first one in 2014.  “It’s terrific to see this Summit blossom from an all-volunteer effort, funded by sponsors like MillionMile Greenway, to evolve into a STPAL project with a budget and long-range plan,” says Jim Langford, president of MillionMile Greenway and founding member of the Georgia Trail Summit. Sponsorships from companies, government agencies and trail-related nonprofits will continue to be an essential revenue source for the Georgia Trail Summit.

We are Accredited!

LTAC_seal_green

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.

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!

Public Use of Conservation Land

Public Use of Conservation Land

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.  John Muir

This is a follow up blog regarding how STPAL balances our sometimes competing missions of land conservation, public use parks, and organizational viability.

It is intentional that in our name the word Parks comes before Land. We were founded in order to create public parks. It is our first priority. So why do we also function as a conservation land trust?

First, we want our efforts to have permanence. Having our land permanently conserved via deed restriction makes the lands’ natural state also permanent. It gives us hope that our parks will remain in use forever. This is a powerful and highly motivating concept.

Second, our land donors and financial supporters like to know that their gifts will have long lasting impact. Having the land conserved provides that surety.

Third, having the land permanently conserved makes it exempt from property taxes. Although I still spend significant and usually aggravating time dealing with some counties as they slowly realize that they can’t tax us.

And finally, the conservation deed restrictions force us and future STPAL Boards and Staff to adhere to our vision of permanent public parks with significant natural areas. We recognize that there may come a time when STPAL could face a crisis or simply stray from its mission.  By permanently conserving the land now we prevent the land from being changed, harmed or even developed in the future. But even today we appreciate that we are forced to keep our conservation land in its natural state.  It simplifies our planning and decision making.

Our current 17 properties are all 100% conserved with just one exception. We can build natural surface trails and parking areas. We can install low impact and minimal signage. We can build natural unplumbed restrooms (google: moldering privy or composting toilet). We can put in disc golf courses. We can install educational and science research components. We can plant native species and remove invasive plants. We can possibly build pavilions, canoe/kayak launches, boardwalks, shooting/archery ranges, and other simple low impact structures. We can consider permitting mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, birdwatching, very limited hunting, limited fishing, limited camping and other activities as long as they do not harm the conservation values of the land. Conservation values examples include water quality and flood control; plant and wildlife habitat protection; and protection of scenic views. Some of the typical park amenities that can’t be built on conservation land are soccer/baseball/softball and other organized sports fields, playgrounds, ATV areas, and other high impact uses. We also are mandated to provide the public use at no or very low cost for participants. This will prevent our parks from ever requiring payment for usage.

In summary, parks on conservation land have a theme of Quiet Enjoyment of Nature.

This is a little additional insight into STPAL’s balancing act. There is more to follow in coming blogs

Happy Trails

Bill Jones

How the Georgia coast was saved

This originally appeared in the Saporta Report http://saportareport.com/

 

This week guest contributor Paul M. Pressly, director of the Ossabaw Island Education Alliance, provides a brief history of efforts to protect Georgia’s coast, and reminds us why the coast matters.

By Paul M. Pressly

Paul M. Pressly

With only 100 miles of coastline, Georgia is blessed with some of the most extensive salt marshes in the nation, hosting one-third of the marsh on the entire East Coast. So what a shock in May 2014 when the Environmental Protection Division, the body charged with safeguarding this precious resource, nullified its old policy and ruled that the requirement of a 25-foot buffer between developed areas and marsh was eliminated.

At the stroke of a pen, it seemed that wetlands were no longer to be protected from runoff carrying silt, pollutants, and all the contaminants that come with houses, roads, and developments. That simple decision, partly the response to a poorly worded law of an earlier time, drew a mighty roar of outrage from a wide range of people across Atlanta and on the coast.

The ruckus has raised a much larger, more important issue. How did the Georgia coast come to be so lucky in the first place? In South Carolina, the barrier islands are paved over and devoted to condominiums, gated communities, and mini-towns with fine restaurants. In Louisiana, barrier islands that once served as speed bumps to hurricanes no longer function as such. Land on the Louisiana coast is being lost at the rate of 25 to 35 square miles per year.

Most Georgians have no idea how lucky they are. In this state, nine of the 13 barrier islands are undeveloped and only four of the 13 are connected to the mainland by a bridge. Even Florida cannot make that claim!

How were we so fortunate? Most people know about one of the reasons. Georgia’s barrier islands benefited from northern capitalists who bought up these beautiful but deserted land masses at a time when they had little economic value, fell in love with them, and took steps to preserve them.

Wormsloe Historic Site, located about 10 miles southeast of Savannah. Credit: Ossabaw Island Education Alliance

The last of this generation, Eleanor Torrey West, or “Sandy,” as she is known to many, a feisty visionary originally from Grosse Pointe, Michigan, still lives in a 20,000-square-foot house on Ossabaw Islandat the age of 102. Thirty-seven years ago, in 1978, she and her family sold the 26,000-acre island, the third-largest on the coast, to the state of Georgia at a much reduced price. She continues in her family home through a life estate. Today, Ossabaw is a Heritage Preserve devoted solely for natural, scientific, and cultural study, research, and education.

Most people are ignorant of the other reason. The 1960s saw very real threats to the integrity of the coast, which drew together an unlikely coalition of people and politicians who produced a stiff counter-punch. During that decade, planners in the Georgia Department of Transportation took up the cause of building a highway running over the marsh for 100 miles, connecting to each barrier island, parallel to the proposed I-95. County commissioners celebrated that “wild acreage would become subdivisions” and predicted northerners would come in droves. Phosphate mining companies bought two small islands, laid plans to dredge large sections of the Georgia coast, and proposed dumping millions of tons of overburden onto the marshes to create mini-islands. The mayor of Savannah called on the legislature to condemn Wassaw Island and force its sale to the state.

Marsh on Ossabaw Island. Credit: Ossabaw Island Education Alliance

Few of us today appreciate how a broad-based coalition of conservative southern politicians, countercultural activists, environmental scientists, sportsmen, devout Christians, garden clubs in Atlanta, and others came together to push the Coastal Marshland Protection Act of 1970 through the state legislature. Sandy West played an active role. Led by a St. Simons lawyer, Reid Harris, the coalition backed an act that set up a permitting process to control development and protect 700,000 acres of marshland. That coalition did not survive for long. It was a magical moment in the history of conservation, when allies as diverse as a deeply conservative governor and a countercultural activist stood together.

Why does the Georgia coast matter? Today we understand the importance of the marsh as an incubator of sea life and as a producer of far more energy than it consumes. But there is a larger reason that should unite us in its defense. Landscape makes us and shapes us as human beings. Landscape keeps us in touch with our deepest values. It is irresponsible for us to throw away this incredible heritage.

So will our current legislators find a solution to the need for a 25-foot barrier on the edge of the marsh and produce legislation that will ensure the integrity of the coast? They must and they will.

An educator and historian, Paul M. Pressly is the director of the Ossabaw Island Education Alliance, a partnership between the Department of Natural Resources, the Board of Regents, and the Ossabaw Island Foundation. He is the author of On the Rim of the Caribbean: Colonial Georgia and the British Atlantic World (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2013) and co-editor of a forthcoming book, Environmental Histories of the Georgia Coast.

This originally appeared in the Saporta Report http://saportareport.com/

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!

http://www.stpal.org/donate/