New executive director named for South Fork Conservancy, keeper of Peachtree Creek trails

By David Pendered

The non-profit organization developing a series of trails along Peachtree Creek in Atlanta has a new executive director, who arrives as the financial picture is brightening for South Fork Conservancy.

South Fork Conservancy, map

South Fork Conservancy has named a new executive director to oversee development of trails along Peachtree Creek, in Atlanta. Credit: southforkconservancy.org

Kimberly Estep is joining the conservancy as executive director. Estep succeeds Sally Sears, the TV journalist who served as South Fork’s founding director and now serves on its board.

“Kimberly is a gifted builder of opportunities,” Sears said in a statement. “She makes us want to explore our urban creeks and reconnect them to ourselves. She’s the perfect choice for South Fork’s next chapter linking these new trails to the city. We are in sure hands with Kimberly.”

Estep’s duties include further development of trails, and access to them, along Peachtree Creek. Estep is to work with the board on raising funds and expanding the organization.

“I am passionate about urban trails,” Estep said in a statement. “They connect communities, create a natural wildlife corridor and provide places to exercise. Plus, South Fork’s trails are really remarkable – they exist in areas that desperately need greenspace, and I look forward to helping expand, and create access to them.”

South Fork Conservancy has enjoyed a financial recovery since the depths of the Great Recession, according to its federal tax forms. South Fork is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization, which means its tax form is available to the public.

Kimberly Estep

Kimberly Estep

Revenues have climbed from $57,812 in 2011; to $137,937 in 2013; to $152,184 in 2014, according to the tax forms. No return was posted for 2012, according to returns posted on guidestar.org.

South Fork has used its resources to develop walking trails, remove invasive species, develop and install wayfinding signage, and improve access to the trail by altering a guard rail to ease access to one area, according to tax returns.

Most of this work is accomplished by volunteers whose work is overseen by South Fork and its newly developed master plan, according to the tax returns.

Ryan Gravel led the team of planners who devised the master plan by taking stock of the project and recommending seven possible trail segments. Gravel first envisioned the Atlanta BeltLine and was working with Perkin+Will when South Fork hired the company in 2010 to create a plan.

This is an example of a typical project conducted by South Fork. This project was completed in 2014 for an expense of $4,682:

  • “This funded oversight for volunteers giving 700-plus hours of support cleaning non-native invasives and building trails. Helpers planted American Chestnut trees and used Trees Atlanta support for restoring dozens of species of trees and bushes along the creek bank. Cheshire Farm Trail opened in September 2014 linking Lindbergh Drive and Cheshire Bridge Road. Volunteers also cleared litter and replaced five historic cedars along the trail.”
South Fork Conservancy, Mason Turner Ferry

Atlanta’s early settlers contended with Peachtree Creek as a central part of their life, such as the need to cross it by ferry as shown in this photo of the Mason Turner Ferry. Credit: southforkconservancy.org

Bob Kerr, a lifelong conservationist, serves as chairman of South Fork Conservancy. Kerr advised three Georgia governors on water policy issues related to the dispute with Alabama and Florida. Kerr is a past executive director of Georgia Conservancy; former chairman of the Board of Trustees of the National Parks Conservation Association; and served as founding director of the Pollution Prevention Assistance Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

“We are delighted to have Ms. Estep join us at this phase of our development and aspirations,” Kerr said in a statement. “She brings a wealth of enthusiasm, experience and intelligence.”

Estep joins South Fork from the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, where she directed communication and stewardship projects. The Arabia Mountain organization oversees the development and management of the site, including greenways and the historic Vaughters farmhouse.

Editor’s Note: Kelly Jordan, whose photographs are a regular feature on SaportaReport, serves as vice chair of the board that oversees Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, which he co-founded.

 

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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