Georgia Land Trust officials said at a town hall meeting at Johnson's Crook in Dade County on Wednesday that their aim is to permanently protect the scenic and historic Lookout Mountain tract.
Royce Cornelison, a contractor who has placed conservation easements on his properties before and is considered the mostly likely buyer, told the group he has the same aim.
Mr. Cornelison, a Sand Mountain resident whose P&C Construction is based in Chattanooga, said if he completes the deal he may build a few homes in the valley section where there are already several cabins. He said the remainder of the property would be preserved with a conservation easement.
Katherine Eddins, land trust executive director, noted that a conservation easement does not have to allow any public access. But she said efforts are being made for an agreement to allow cavers access to several caves on the 1,800-acre property.
She also said there is some discussion of an eventual trail going from Cloudland Canyon State Park to Johnson's Crook. "That is down the road," she said, but she said it is hoped there can be allowances in the easement for a trail near the top of the property.
Officials said, "The Land Trust’s mission is to preserve and protect land for present and future generations, a mission it has been on for the past 20 years. The Land Trust has protected over a quarter of a million acres, primarily with conservation easements. A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement between a land owner and a land trust that permanently protects land from development, surface mining and other practices that would significantly harm the land and its natural areas. Georgia Land Trust holds over 700 conservation easements, making it the largest land Trust in the Southeast.
"The Georgia Land Trust took on Johnson’s Crook as a protection project because of its ecological and historical significance. In addition to being a filter for clean drinking water, Johnson’s Crook contains important ecological features such as caves, rare plants and habitat for a variety of wildlife.
"For approximately three years, the Land Trust has been working with partners such as banks, a bankruptcy trustee and the Southeast Cave Conservancy on the acquisition and stewardship of the land. When the Land Trust completes its acquisition and conservation effort, plans are to work with an individual or organization who will own the land and will permanently protect he land with a conservation easement.
"The Georgia Land Trust will continue to be involved in the stewardship of the land and will insure that the land is never turned into a development or subdivision. The land trust plans to have periodic meetings to update interested parties. Updates will emailed and posted on the website (www.galandtrust.org) and the Facebook page (www.facebook.com/AlabamaGeorgiaLandTrust.
"Anyone who has questions about Johnson’s Crook or conservation easements can please call the Land Trust office at 256-447-1006."