Land Near Ft. King George Protected (GA)

MCINTOSH COUNTY, GA: The Trust for Public Land conveyed 10 acres in McIntosh County, Georgia to the State of Georgia on May 22nd, 2003. The land will be managed by the State’s Department of Natural Resources as part of the Ft. King George State Historic Site. Partial funding for the project was provided by the Land & Water Conservation Fund which is administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

This is the property that just one year ago, Mayor David Bluestein and county attorney Adam Poppell saved from being developed. The Trust for Public Land then acquired the site for transfer to the State. TPL, along with local supporters (including the Friends of Fort King George), organized a local fundraising effort to match state-committed LWCF funds for the project. The tract is important because of its proximity to Fort King George. State archaeologists believe the site contains important material evidence about Georgia’s earliest history.

“TPL was contacted by the Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites and the Coastal Georgia Land Trust to assist in preserving a 10-acre site adjacent to the fort that was threatened by development,” says Russ Marane, state director of TPL-Georgia. “The purchase of this adjacent land protects the natural landscape around the existing historic site. We have Mayor Bluestein and Adam Poppell to thank for their foresight and vision. Had they not acted as quickly as they did, we would never have been able to save this significant historical and archaeological site.” Marane also praised Better Hometown Community Downtown Development Authority manager, Karen Moore for her efforts toward local fund-raising.

“This addition to Fort King George will provide interpretive and public use opportunities that will significantly enhance the visitor experience,” says Mayor Bluestein. “But what is of equal importance, is the way people rallied around the call to save this land. It says a lot about our community.”

“I can’t tell you how much this means to the people of the state of Georgia,” says Lonice Barrett, Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources. “This is a classic example of what can be accomplished when public and private entities come together for a common goal. Thanks to the efforts of organizations like the Trust for Public Land, the Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites and the Coastal Georgia Land Trust, and the good people of Darien, we’ve saved an important piece of real estate- and we’ve preserved an important part of our early Georgia heritage.”

Commissioner Barrett went on to recognize the early work of former State Parks Director Burt Weerts and his successor, current Parks Director, Becky Kelley, for their efforts to make this project become a reality. “It was a great overall team effort,” states Barrett.

The Friends of Fort King George and other Darien leaders are in the midst of one last fund raising drive to reimburse the Trust for Public Land for acquisition costs and other expenses related to the transfer of this property. “The clock was running out and TPL came up with $60,000 we needed to complete this transaction,” says Adam Poppell. “We’re committed to help make TPL whole.”

About Fort King George: Situated a mile east of present-day Darien, McIntosh County, Georgia, Fort King George (or “King George’s Fort” as it was originally called) was the southern outpost of the British Empire in North America and the first English settlement of coastal Georgia (the 13th colony of Georgia was officially established in 1733 near present day Savannah by General James Oglethorpe).

This fort was established in 1721 to deter French expansion into the Altamaha region, as well as to assert British claims against the Spanish who had maintained a string of missions along the lower south Atlantic coast. The original settlement included a cypress block house, barracks and earthen walls. For the first seven years of its existence, His Majesty’s Independent Company garrisoned the fort. They endured incredible hardships from disease, threats of Spanish and Indian attacks, and the harsh, unfamiliar coastal environment. After the fort was abandoned, General Oglethorpe brought Scottish Highlanders to the site in 1736. Oglethorpe’s settlement, later called Darien, eventually became an export center for lumber and rice. Using old records and drawings, this pre-revolutionary frontier fortification on the Altamaha River has been reconstructed for public tours. It is the oldest state historic site owned and operated by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

About Friends of Fort King George: Friends of Fort King George is a Chapter of the Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites. It is a local 501 (C.3) non-profit organization made up of Georgians who want to take an active part in conserving Georgia’s natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. Its specific mission is to help encourage community participation in the preservation and continued successful operation of Fort King George.

About TPL: Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land 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 land throughout the state- including nearly 70 miles along the Chattahoochee River. It has also conserved land on Georgia’s coast and rivers, and in urban centers.