By Guest Columnist HELEN PRESTON TAPP, Georgia state director of the Trust for Public Land.
Fall’s fresh air and blue skies beckon us outdoors to enjoy neighborhood strolls, hikes in the woods, biking and boating adventures and campouts. Even a little time on a trail or in a park re-invigorates us. Now, there is mounting evidence that reinforces what we feel: Getting outdoors is good for us.
And making sure that all of us have places for people to connect with nature, friends, family and our heritage is the mission of The Trust for Public Land (TPL). TPL negotiates with landowners to buy key properties which will become places for the public to enjoy forever. Through a combination of private donations and government funds, we convey those lands to local, state or federal agencies. Having recovered our seed money, TPL moves on to save the next important properties.
Just last week local, state and federal officials, canoeists and environmentalists met on the banks of the Chattahoochee River to celebrate three new places for the public to get onto the river. Thanks to money from TPL’s Chattahoochee Protection Campaign, paddlers will have state-owned put-in and take-out points in White, Habersham and Hall counties along a twelve-mile stretch of the river.
These projects are the latest examples of the ways TPL protects land for people so we can have healthier lifestyles, communities and ecosystems. The Chattahoochee is the water source for most Georgians, and contributes to the economies of Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Over the last decade more than 150 miles of riverbank have been protected in that portion of the river which lies entirely in Georgia, between the headwaters and Columbus.
By leveraging the donations and grants of Georgians, and public dollars from all levels, more than 16,000 acres worth more than $250 million have been secured for future generations. This includes pristine land around the headwaters, as well as land for new parks and park expansions, and an emerging system of trails and boat launches. Future phases of the program will focus on linking conserved lands and the people near them from north Georgia all the way to Appalachicola Bay.
Beyond the Chattahoochee, the Trust for Public Land is protecting Civil War sites, working on rails-to-trails projects, continuing to support the Atlanta BeltLine and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, and helping to expand national forests and wildlife management areas. Also, we are working with banks and local governments to convert failed development projects to parks for people.
The needs and the opportunities for greenspace have never been greater. Based on park use, voter support for community investments, and the generous support of donors, land conservation seems to provide a point of common purpose for Georgians. Conservation today contributes to the quality of life for our children and grandchildren, and underpins Georgia’s position as a destination of choice for families and employers.
So, health experts are saying we need more exercise. Budget constraints are encouraging families to find close-to-home recreational opportunities. And, with her glorious autumn, Mother Nature seems to be calling us outdoors. TPL is proud to have a hand in expanding the choices you have for doing just that.
For more information on the Trust for Public Land, please go to www.tpl.org.