800 Acres Protected on Dog River (GA)

DOUGLAS COUNTY, 7/22/02: The Trust for Public Land-Georgia announced today that it is conveying 802 acres of pristine land along the Dog River to Douglas County – the funding for the government’s purchase generated by the SPLOST (Special Option Local Sales Tax) voters approved earlier this year. The county is acquiring the land to protect the quality of its drinking water, which is supplied by the river, and to provide recreational opportunities for county residents. The purchase comes on the heels of the county’s acquisition of a nearby property, a 470-acre tract along the Chattahoochee River that will also be the site of a future park.

“We feel like each county owes its citizens greenspace that they can enjoy,” says Claude Abercrombie, the Douglas County commissioner who represents District 2. “This land on the Dog River is just a beautiful, beautiful area that can be protected. We can preserve the land to filter out pollutants that might otherwise get into our drinking water and we can create a place for recreation. We feel very fortunate to be able to acquire it.”

The project will protect 2.13 miles of Dog River buffer and approximately 1 mile of Flyblow Creek, a tributary of the Dog River.

Mike Mulcare, president of Friends of Douglas County, praises the purchase, too.

“With so much development pressure on the land, it was very important for the county to protect this area,” says the retired Delta Airlines manager. He helped a group of residents form the Friends organization after they won a 1997 fight to protect Bear Creek from a re-zoning that would have increased development. “The kind of quality of life that the Dog River is a part of is what people came to Douglas County for in the first place. They came to see the creeks, owls, squirrels and the deer that the habitat supports.”

Mulcare, however, views the county’s move as just the first step in a longer-term effort to guarantee that the land is permanently protected.

“Our leaders have made promises to Douglas County and its citizens in good faith that the land will be protected in perpetuity,” he says. “But times can change. What if ten or twenty years from now, another set of county commissioners start saying the tax revenues are declining yet we’ve got all this greenspace, why don’t we sell it? There are all kinds of excuses the commissioners could use later to sell off the land legally – but not ethically.”

Mulcare says that the way to prevent this possibility is by creating a local land trust that can manage and monitor the property once the county has placed legally protective measures on the land. (Such measures could include a conservation easement – a legal agreement between a land owner and a qualified conservation organization or government agency that permanently limits a property’s uses in order to protect its conservation values.) A Douglas County Chamber of Commerce quality-of-life committee, he adds, named creating a land trust a major initiative that should be undertaken with the support of all interests in the county.

Meanwhile, TPL-Georgia Director Russ Marane commends Douglas County residents and their government for what they have accomplished.

“People like those involved with the Friends of Douglas County laid groundwork and increased awareness of the importance of protecting vital natural resources and creating parks,” says Marane, whose national nonprofit organization of real estate specialists helps communities protect land. “It was not even two years ago that voters turned down a SPLOST, but they clearly came out in support of greenspace during this year’s vote.”

Abercrombie agrees. “We can contribute the vote the citizens gave us to greenspace protection,” he says. “It was the leading incentive – that and recreation. There’s no question they were the items that sold the SPLOST even though roads and capital improvements were also on it.

Trust for Public Land: Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) specializes in conservation real estate — applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. Across the nation, TPL has saved more than 1.4 million acres of land. In Georgia, TPL has helped protect more than 10,000 acres of land throughout the state – including nearly 70 miles along the Chattahoochee River.

For more information contact the Friends of Douglas County.