ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga., Oct. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The St. Simons Land Trust announced today the closing of the organization's purchase of Cannon's Point, an undeveloped, 608-acre wilderness tract located on St. Simons Island, Georgia. The sale transfers ownership of Cannon's Point from Wells Fargo to the Land Trust, which intends to manage the land as a publicly accessible wilderness preserve that will be protected by a conservation easement. The St. Simons Land Trust is a non-profit, membership-based organization that has worked to acquire and protect land and greenspaces on the coastal Georgia island since its founding in 2000. The acquisition of Cannon's Point quadruples the amount of protected land on the Island.
The funds required to purchase Cannon's Point were raised during an 18-month capital campaign that included gifts and pledges from individuals, foundations and organizations that ranged from more than $12-million to less than $1,000.
The purchase of Cannon's Point concludes an effort that began in January 2011 when Wells Fargo structured an agreement that provided a multi-year period during which the St. Simons Land Trust and its partners would have ample time to fundraise in order to acquire Cannon's Point and protect its natural values through a conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy. "The preservation of this land will have multiple benefits for the community and we are proud to have done our part to make this a reality," said Daniel Bartok, Executive Vice President of Wells Fargo.
In October of 2011, the project's fundraising timetable was accelerated when an anonymous source pledged $5-million to the campaign, conditioned upon all funds being raised and the land purchase completed by September 30, 2012. "The successful acquisition of Cannon's Point, completed in less than two years, reflects the generosity and engagement of Wendy and Hank Paulson, Ada Lee and Pete Correll and that of all project donors who saw this as a once in a lifetime conservation opportunity," said Ben Slade, Executive Director of the St. Simons Land Trust. "Thanks to the efforts of the campaign committee, co-chaired by Bill Jones III and Davis Love III, Cannon's Point is now a preserved asset for our Island, our coast and our state."
Cannon's Point is the last intact maritime forest on St. Simons Island and is rich in cultural and natural history. The peninsula has over six miles of salt marsh, tidal creek and river shoreline that provide habitat for wildlife such as oysters, birds, fish, manatee and shellfish. Shell middens dating back to 2500 BCE are on the site, as are the remains of the large plantation home and slave quarters built by John Couper in the 1800s.
A conservation easement on Cannon's Point, an agreement that limits how the land can be used in the future while protecting its natural value, is held by The Nature Conservancy. "The Nature Conservancy has worked in Georgia since 1969, and our first land protection here was on the coast," said Mark Abner, executive director for the Conservancy in Georgia. "Now the maritime forests and coastal wetlands of Cannon's Point, and the salt marsh and tidal creeks that surround it, will be protected for future generations to enjoy. We're proud to play a role in ensuring a healthy future for these incredible lands and waters."
"So much of the natural history that preceded us is being erased," said Wendy Paulson. "This was not so much a financial venture as it was a collective and urgent mission to establish a preserve that protects the natural and cultural history of Georgia's coast to ensure that ongoing generations can better understand and enjoy barrier island history and ecology. Saving places like Cannon's Point helps define the kind of future we want to leave for those who follow us."
Pete Correll, a partner in the project who grew up in nearby Brunswick, said, "Cannon's Point is really two things: a wonderful piece of coastal property that needed to be preserved; but it also has historical significance. It's important for the people of this area and our state to know that this is how Georgia grew up."
Paralleling the Cannon's Point fundraising campaign was 18 months of work by four project Task Forces to develop long-term strategies for managing the conservation, historic, educational and recreational assets of the property. "The beauty, ecological importance and historical significance of Cannon's Point are now protected," said Susan Shipman, Chairman of the St. Simons Land Trust board. "Now the task of funding to prepare to put people on Cannon's Point begins. If the Land Trust is able to raise an additional $500,000 in 2013, this quasi-wilderness preserve will offer passive recreation and educational programs for residents and visitors. It is the goal of the Land Trust and its partners in this project for Cannon's Point to be a nationwide model for preservation, conservation and nature-centered recreation and education.
CONTACT: Dana Pope +1-912-638-5401, firstname.lastname@example.org
SOURCE St. Simons Land Trust