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St. Simons Land Trust

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St. Simons Land Trust

Message from our Executive Director

August 1, 2017

 

What a beautiful summer we are enjoying on St. Simons Island.  I’m amazed each day by this special place and thankful to be involved in the Land Trust’s efforts to preserve its natural and scenic character.

I am writing in partnership with the Board of Directors to update you on the progress of our Musgrove acquisition campaign. I’ll also highlight the measures we are taking to ensure this historic and ecologically valuable property will be protected, preserved and enjoyed for generations to come.

Strong Fundraising Drive

To date, we have raised approximately $8.4 million and we have $1.93 million remaining to complete our Musgrove acquisition. Due to your generous donations, coupled with significant contributions from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service secured through the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, we have closed on two phases of the Musgrove acquisition, totaling 148 acres protected.  After raising the remaining funds to close on Phase 3 (an additional 110 acres) by early 2018, we will prepare the property to be opened to the public. 

We can’t thank you enough for your generous support thus far, and we hope you will consider this project a continued priority in your charitable giving.

Rare and Beautiful Land

Musgrove is a rare and beautiful property, containing some of the most ecologically significant habitats in Georgia.  It has a distinctive mix of maritime forest, rare freshwater wetlands and coastal shell-midden woodlands, Florida scrub communities, tidal creeks and salt marsh.  Its marsh shoreline provides an important habitat and nesting ground for a variety of coastal species, including osprey, wood storks, painted buntings and diamondback terrapins.  The coexistence of mature maritime forest and pond pine wetlands is an exceedingly rare feature, found today only on St. Simons Island and two other Georgia barrier islands (Cumberland and Sapelo).  We are thrilled that we are able to protect and preserve this very special habitat.

Plans for Public Use

Once we raise the remaining $1.93 million to close on the final 110-acre phase of the Musgrove acquisition, plans will be implemented to open the 258-acre park to the public.  The entire Land Trust portion of Musgrove – crisscrossed by hiking and biking trails and including a 1,000-foot waterfront, with a fishing platform and ramp access for kayaks, paddleboards and motorized boats of no greater than 20 feet in length – will be managed in perpetuity under a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation easement, which will permanently protect Musgrove from development.  This arrangement will maintain Musgrove’s ecological character and ensure minimal disturbance or negative impact to this rare and valuable property.  We feel certain you will want to explore and enjoy the new opportunities for hiking, biking and outdoor adventure.  We invite you to view the early renderings of the fishing platform and hiking trails.

Concerns from German Village

Concerns have been voiced by some of our neighbors living in German Village about vehicular access to Musgrove’s 1,000-foot waterfront area via Village Drive. Village Drive is a paved, public road that runs from Lawrence Road past German Village to the Musgrove waterfront area.

While the use of Village Drive by Land Trust visitors is consistent with public Glynn County road guidelines, German Village residents have expressed concern about potential effects on local traffic, safety and quality of life. They also have concerns with motorized boats accessing Musgrove Creek via the boat launch at the Musgrove waterfront.

We have met with representatives of German Village on several occasions over the past few months, have listened carefully to their concerns, and have spoken with experts and our partners at DNR, all in an effort to fully understand the issues and examine all possible alternatives. 

The Land Trust has carefully considered the suggestion to construct an improved/new vehicular road from Lawrence Road through the park to the waterfront area and has consulted with our surveyors as well as an engineering firm. We have learned that creating vehicular access through the park would decrease the conservation value of the project and is not compatible with the Land Trust’s and DNR’s conservation goals. A new road would take vehicles across the proposed hiking and biking trails, trespass over the historic cemetery of the First African Baptist Church – an inholding within the Musgrove property – and would require crossing over existing wetlands and damaging rare maritime forest.  These activities would not align with the ecological protections of the conservation easement. And, while not the decisive factor, constructing a road would impose a significant financial cost, even if it could be done without jeopardizing the conservation values of the property.

To address concerns about road traffic on Village Drive, we are placing strict limitations on parking in the waterfront area. There will be only five pre-reserved spaces for boat trailers and 12 other spaces, all fully contained within the Musgrove property. These parking limitations will serve to reduce the number of cars traveling down Village Drive to the Musgrove waterfront area.

A vital factor in securing the grant from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was public, motorized boat access to Musgrove Creek.  Access to tidal waters for public use is a fundamental priority for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and St. Simons Land Trust believes immersion in our surrounding coastal environment is one of the most effective ways to foster a conservation ethic for current and future generations.  While we cannot fulfill our neighbors’ request to eliminate motorized boat access entirely, we believe the 20-foot length restriction on motorized boats, and the limited waterfront parking – coupled with our regular monitoring of Musgrove Creek – will serve to minimize impact on the creek and preserve its ecological health. 

Once we open the property to the public, we will continue to work diligently with the residents of German Village to help mitigate as many concerns as possible about the use of Village Drive.  We pledge to do all we can to be excellent stewards of Musgrove and to also support our neighbors in German Village with sound management practices.

In Closing

With your help, the Land Trust has raised more than $40 million over the past 17 years, for the protection of nearly 1000 acres in over 20 locations across this very special island.  Musgrove is yet another treasured part of St. Simons Island we are saving from development, and we ask for your continued support to complete the final phase of the Musgrove acquisition campaign. Together, we can ensure the permanent protection of this major tract of unspoiled land on St. Simons Island – leaving a legacy for current and future generations to enjoy.  Please enjoy this photo gallery of the Musgrove property’s beautiful places.

Sincerely,

David H. Pope

Give to the Campaign to Preserve Musgrove

Frequently Asked Questions about the Musgrove Acquisition