Column: Georgia Power donation to state’s DNR to preserve 5,000 acres

By Maria Saporta
Friday, November 13, 2009

Georgia Power Co. is donating more than 5,000 acres of significant property to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, ensuring that they will be preserved for generations to come.

The largest land gift is the Sprewell Bluff property, a 3,059-acre site along both sides of the Flint River at the Sprewell Bluff State Park and Natural Area in Middle Georgia.

The second donation is the McGrau Ford Wildlife Management Area, a 2,052-acre site along the Etowah River in Cherokee County.

“We are just ecstatic that the people of Georgia will have this property in perpetuity,” said Chris Clark, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “You can’t put a price on it. It means so much to the region and the state.”

Craig Barrs, Georgia Power’s senior vice president of external affairs, said the land gifts “just seemed like the right thing to do” at this time.

“We have been leasing both of these to the state, and we are going to move them off of our books to the state’s books,” Barrs said.

These two land gifts follow Georgia Power’s donation of 2,268 acres of Tallulah Gorge to the Georgia DNR in October 2007.

“These gifts are in the same category of Tallulah Gorge, that we donated to the state so they can protect it once and for all,” Barrs said.

The property was originally acquired by the utility in the 1920s. In 1996, Georgia Power leased the land to Georgia DNR for a state park and wildlife management area.

“It’s an incredible piece of property,” Clark said. “It still looks like it did 500 years ago.”

Pierre Howard, president of the Georgia Conservancy, described the Sprewell donation “like a dream come true” for Georgians.

“Sprewell Bluff is a place of exquisite beauty and immeasurable worth that will now belong to all Georgians and to future generations,” Howard said. “This great natural treasure came close to being destroyed by a dam in 1974 until it was saved by Gov. Jimmy Carter.”

The McGrau Ford Wildlife Management Area also was originally acquired in the 1920s and was leased to the Georgia DNR for the past 13 years.

Philanthropists of the year

When Ada Lee and Pete Correll received the 2009 Philanthropists of the Year award Nov. 10 at the Georgia Aquarium, only a few of their contributions were highlighted — those to Emory University’s School of Medicine and to help save Grady Hospital.

But the Corrells’ philanthropy has stretched from raising money for the renovation of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church and the establishment of the Correll Center for Aquatic Animal Health at the Georgia Aquarium, as well as contributions to the University of Maine, Georgia Southern and East Georgia College. The awards are given by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Atlanta chapter.

Ada Lee recalled growing up as a child of single mother who, despite being poor, insisted that her children give back and help people in need. “When I married a man with the biggest heart in the world, Pete and I were able to give as a team our dollars and our time,” she said.

Pete Correll said that when they moved to Atlanta 21 years ago, they caught on to the “Atlanta Way” where people are “expected to be involved and expected to give” to the community.

“It’s just been a wonderful, wonderful ride,” he said, recalling how city leaders stepped up to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to save Grady. “That could only happen in Atlanta, Ga.”

Correll ended his talk by saying: “It’s a heck of a lot more fun to give money away than it is to earn it.”

Ed Heys, Deloitte’s deputy managing partner for Atlanta and Birmingham, received the 2009 Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year, primarily for chairing the United Way campaign through a tumultuous 2008.

Heys credited the late John Conant, then-CEO of John H. Harland Co., for getting him involved in the community.

“Somebody asked,” Heys said. “John Conant asked me to get involved in the Boys & Girls Clubs some 20 years ago. My challenge to the group is to try to find someone new to get involved with your organization.”

Speaking of giving, the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, in a recent survey of its donors, discovered that local philanthropists remain committed despite the down economy.

Seventy percent of the foundation’s donors said their contributions stayed the same or increased in the past year. Also, more than half of the donors said they volunteered at the same levels as the previous year.

Coke shares its vision

The Coca-Cola Co. will host a unique stakeholders conference in Atlanta on Nov. 16 and 17. The hope is to share the company’s 2020 Vision Roadmap with the theme: “A Growing World of Refreshment.”

On Monday afternoon, the conference will include a presentation of the company’s vision by CEO Muhtar Kent, and Gary Fayard, Coca-Cola’s chief financial officer will present the company’s financial vision.

“This is our back yard,” explained Dana Bolden, Coca-Cola’s director of communications, about why the event is being held in Atlanta. The last time there was such conference in Atlanta was in 1998, and that was just for investors and analysts.

This conference, expected to attract 230 people, will include other stakeholders, including journalists and bloggers.

“It’s to share our vision and share some exciting new innovations that we are going to be marketing pretty soon,” Bolden said.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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