The tract is considered by local botanists and plant enthusiasts to contain one of the largest and densest concentrations of trout lilies known to exist anywhere. The hardwood forest is also home to many other rare wildflowers and will offer the public recreational opportunities for walking, hiking and nature study.
If not for the outpouring of community support through donations, the Grady County Commission’s efforts to obtain a Georgia Land Conservation grant, and property owners Russell Fowler, Cecil and Lofley Hinson of Flint River Timber Company’s generous discount of the purchase price – this significant wildflower-rich area may have become a residential development or cleared for its timber.
Dan Miller, a member of the Tallahassee Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, coordinated the effort to raise over $100,000 in donations to put the project over the top. Miller reports the private funds came from 75 individuals and seven organizations/businesses including the Georgia and Florida Native Plant Societies. The majority of money, however, came from South Georgia and North Florida individuals, he says, noting that many donors were from all over the state of Georgia.
The Wolf Creek tract was purchased by Flint River Timber Company in 2002 and originally appraised at $665,000. After receiving a discounted price from Flint River Timber Company, the property was purchased by the County for $444,407.20 (including closing costs). The Georgia Land Conservation Grant contributed $342,750, and taxes of $1,356.16 were prorated for a credit, leaving a balance of $100,301.04 (which was paid through donations).
Miller noted the project could not have been completed without the price reduction from Flint River Timber Company. “Grady County should applaud Mr. Hinson and Russell Fowler for their generosity and for their recognition of the biological significance of this site, and their willingness to take the property off the market over two years ago . . . so we could proceed with a preservation plan. They are truly wonderful people and a credit to Grady County and the State of Georgia,” Miller said.
Grady County Commission Chairman Bobby Burns represented the County at the closing of the Wolf Creek Property on Monday. “On behalf of the Grady County Board of Commissioners, I have the honor this afternoon to sign the settlement papers that convey the Wolf Creek Property to Grady County,” Chairman Burns said.
“This purchase is the successful culmination of a collaborative effort by Grady County, Dan Miller, Andrew Szwak, manager of the state land conservation program that provided $342,750 in grant funds, and the other 81 donors that made the purchase of Wolf Creek possible. In addition, I want to thank the principals of Flint River Timber Company for their recognition of the trout lilies that grow on the property and their interest in preserving this unique location in Grady County and Southwest Georgia,” remarked Burns.
Burns also thanked Lane Green, executive director of Tall Timbers, for agreeing to be the independent monitoring agent for the Wolf Creek property to meet the expectations of the Georgia Land Conservation Program (which provided acquisition funding for the tract of land).
“I encourage everyone to visit the Wolf Creek Property when the trout lilies are in bloom and I think they will be mindful of the reason the County Board of Commissioners thought this property was worth preserving,” added Chairman Burns.
Miller would like to see the tract used as a passive nature preserve with access restricted to organized public outings. He noted the requirements of the grant from the state and the current deed prohibit, in perpetuity, any activities that would be detrimental to the unique biological significance of the property.
Miller said he and the many supporters of this effort were elated to see this site preserved for public enjoyment. “We thank the members of the Grady County Commission, County Administrator Rusty Moye and his staff for their cooperation and assistance in this effort.”
County Attorney Kevin S. Cauley said that the Wolf Creek tract is now the county’s property, subject to the restrictions set on it by the Georgia Land Conservancy. “That agreement basically says it never gets developed and Tall Timbers will manage it in perpetuity,” Cauley said.