310 Acres Along The Middle Oconee River Conserved In Athens-Clarke County

November 20, 2012

Tallassee forest tract in Georgia

Tallassee Tract. Photo by J Michael Wharton

Private-Public Partnership Completes County’s Third Largest Greenspace Acquisition 

Athens, Ga. — After nearly two years of effort, Athens-Clarke County Unified Government (ACCUG), in partnership with the Oconee River Land Trust (ORLT), has purchased and protected a 310-acre natural area in northwest Athens. Bordering the Middle Oconee River for 1.2 miles, the ecologically diverse forestland will provide opportunities for low-impact public recreation, environmental education and scientific study.

Former landowner Taylor Glover recognized the extraordinary conservation value of the land and wanted to permanently protect this community resource. This project became a reality on Tuesday through the cooperative efforts of six groups — the ACCUG’s Greenspace Acquisition Program, the ORLT, the Riverview Foundation, The Conservation Fund, the Athens Land Trust and Mr. Glover.

The ORLT worked with both ACCUG and Mr. Glover to develop a conservation easement that permanently protects the property’s natural resources, including a mature hardwood forest of oak, hickory and river birch as well as riparian zones and a wetland. As part of the easement process, the ORLT developed a base-line resource inventory, helped negotiate overall objectives for the property and committed to remain actively involved in the project. The conservation easement, ORLT’s 33rd, was designed to ensure that the species-rich habitats would continue to thrive, local drinking water from the river would be protected and greenspace will be available for future generations.

“Thanks to Mr. Glover and the creative partnership of ACCUG, the ORLT, The Conservation Fund and the Riverview Foundation, an amazing forest is now protected where people will be able to see firsthand what land conservation is all about,” said Daniel Hope III, ORLT Chair.

ACCUG provided a major portion of the funding for the acquisition through ACCUG’s Special Local Option Sales Tax funded Greenspace Acquisition Program. The Conservation Fund, a national land and water conservation organization, helped to secure a generous grant from the Riverview Foundation to bridge the funding gap and complete the project. The Athens Land Trust was instrumental in helping obtain the assistance of The Conservation Fund.

“The Oconee River is an important natural asset for Athens-Clarke County and the state of Georgia, and we are pleased to contribute to its protection,” said Riverview Foundation Chairman, George Fontaine, Sr. “We are excited to be involved in this successful partnership to expand public greenspace and recreational opportunities along the river corridor for the surrounding community.”

The ACCUG will manage the property under the goals of its Greenspace Program and has begun to develop a Comprehensive Ecological Management Plan to guide property management decisions. A detailed site plan will also be created in order to protect ecologically diverse and sensitive habitats while enhancing educational and recreational experiences. Future plans include hiking trails and scenic vistas highlighting some of the site’s most beautiful features.

“This project is an excellent example of the public and private sectors working together to protect our quality of life and protect green space for future generations, which naturally contributes to enhanced economic opportunities,” said Athens-Clarke County Mayor Nancy Denson. “The preservation of this land is a tremendous asset for our community and I commend all the people who worked to make it a reality.”

Adjacent to the now publicly-owned forest is a 232-acre private property protected under conservation easements in 2011 and 2012 by Mr. Glover and the Athens Land Trust. Together, the easements on the properties create a 542-acre stretch of protected natural land, a significant amount of green space in one of Georgia’s most developed counties.

“Protecting the natural heritage of a community not only ensures the stewardship of its vital resources like drinking water, it also enhances the character of the area by providing opportunities for the young and old to enjoy the outdoors,” said Andrew Schock, Georgia Sate Director for The Conservation Fund. “We are enormously grateful for the generosity of the Riverview Foundation and applaud the partnership that succeeded in preserving this natural haven for generations to come.”

ORLT, a local nonprofit, works with private landowners to protect important green space in Northeast Georgia. To date, ORLT has protected over 3,900 acres in nine counties. More information can be found at www.orlt.com.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we combine a passion for conservation with an entrepreneurial spirit to protect your favorite places before they become just a memory. A hallmark of our work is our deep, unwavering understanding that for conservation solutions to last, they need to make economic sense. Top-ranked, we have protected more than 7 million acres across America.