165 Acres for New Bond Swamp (GA) Education Center

MACON, GA: The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) purchased the 164-acre Brown’s Mount from the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Macon for a new education center at the Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). The Trust for Public Land (TPL) facilitated the purchase.

“I am delighted that this very beneficial partnership will occur between DNR, TPL, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Museum of Arts and Sciences. This is a “win-win” situation for the public and for natural resources management. We need to do more of this sort of thing,” said Lonice Barrett, Commissioner of DNR.

In an unprecedented partnership, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will lease Brown’s Mount to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (F& WS). In a cooperative agreement with the DNR and F& WS, the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Macon has agreed to conduct environmental education programs on the Mount and has committed all the proceeds of the transaction to enhance their programming.

“The Museum of Arts and Sciences is excited about the creation of this new partnership and the prospects it brings to expand our environmental education programs at Brown’s Mount,” said Michael Brothers, director of the museum, “The preservation and opening of these important natural resources will provide the public with outstanding opportunities to enjoy these unique environments.”

Although Bond Swamp NWR is a 10-minute drive from downtown Macon, it has not been open to the public since The Nature Conservancy acquired it in the 1980s. The refuge was opened for public fishing on March 15 and hopes to have foot trails available to the public by mid-October. The refuge currently covers approximately 6500 acres on the eastern banks of the Ocmulgee River. Acquisitions negotiated by the Trust for Public Land in connection with the Ocmulgee Heritage Greenway initiative have added more than 1700 newly protected acres on the western bank of the river. More than 30 public agencies, non-profit organizations, businesses and civic organizations have joined forces to plan the Ocmulgee Heritage Greenway, which will protect the natural, historic and cultural resources along the Ocmulgee River from Juliette to Warner Robins.

“We are very pleased and excited with the opportunity to partner with the Museum and Georgia DNR to provide environmental education opportunities at Brown’s Mount and to be part of the Ocmulgee Heritage Greenway initiative,” said Ronnie Shell, Manger of the Fish & Wildlife Service’s Piedmont and Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuges. “All of the partners working together will be able to accomplish much more than we could individually.”

Brown’s Mount rises 300 feet above the Ocmulgee River flood plain, formed by layers of limestone left when ocean waters receded. Fossil seashells are still evident in the rock. From the top of the mount, one can see a great expanse of the Bond Swamp NWR and the Macon city skyline.

“People will be delighted with Bond Swamp,” said Rand Wentworth, Director of the Trust for Public Land in Georgia, “We are proud to be part of a wonderful partnership with DNR and the Fish and Wildlife Service to make this natural treasure accessible to middle Georgia.”

Founded in 1972, the Trust specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for public use and enjoyment. The Trust has helped protect more than one million acres nationwide, including such national treasures as George Washington’s Mt. Vernon, Thoreau’s Walden Woods, and the Martin Luther King, Jr.

National Historic Site. In Georgia, the Trust has helped to preserve Cumberland Island, Ft. Frederica on St. Simons Island, and the Chattahoochee, Ocmulgee, and Chattooga Rivers. The Trust recently launched its “Greenprint for Growth” campaign to help sprawl-threatened communities protect land as a way to guide development and sustain a healthy economy and high quality of life.