A piece of paradise is now permanently preserved on St. Simons Island, one of Georgia’s most heavily developed barrier islands. Cannon’s Point, a 600-plus acre tract of land comprised of maritime forest, salt marsh and tidal creeks, was purchased by the St. Simons Land Trust (SSLT) in late September and will be protected through a conservation easement and managed as a nature preserve. The 18-month campaign to raise money for the purchase succeeded in quadrupling the amount of protected land on the island.
“It is truly a jewel,” says Susan Shipman, chairman of the St. Simons Land Trust Board of Directors and Georgia Conservancy member. “Over 400 acres of Cannon’s Point is mature maritime forest – a habitat that is diminishing along the Atlantic Coast. Its preservation has both local and regional significance for the coast. Barrier islands and maritime forests are losing their character and this is a pocket, if you will, here on St. Simons that will remain a gem into perpetuity so that generations can enjoy, understand and respect this kind of wilderness.”
The land trust brought together experts from all along the coast - from academia, government (state and federal), local business and from nonprofit conservation organizations such as the Nature Conservancy - to work on the long-term management plan for the property. The group worked in task forces that focused on history and archaeology, recreation and infrastructure, conservation, and education.
Another resource that helped the SSLT and its partners to understand the character of the island were maps developed by the Coastal Georgia Land Conservation Initiative (CGLCI). A unique collaboration of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, state Department of Natural Resources and the Georgia Conservancy, CGLCI created these detailed maps to help in the preservation of critical coastal lands and to promote sustainable growth patterns and development.
“The maps were a fundamental tool that we used in all of our ecological planning and it was one of the first examples where that mapping has been actively used to save a property,” says Shipman.
Within the next year, the St. Simons Land Trust hopes to open the land to the public and allow visitors to experience Cannon’s Point through a variety of activities ranging from kayaking, hiking, educational tours and birding.
“Cannon’s Point will be a wonderful place for visitors to St. Simons, local residents and area students,” says Shipman. “We view the property as a natural ecological preserve that will be a living laboratory for students of all ages, from elementary to college to life-long learners.”