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!

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/

 

 

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.

 

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.

Quickbooks

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.

Signage

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.

Speaking

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.