Developers seek community involvement
Signage was posted at Talking Rock Nature Preserve last Thursday, July 30 that features rules and a park map. The photo was taken from the Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land Facebook page. You can access the preserve off of Carnes Mill Road.
A Tuesday, July 28 presentation from Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land Executive Director Bill Jones revealed more details about proposed plans for the Talking Rock Nature Preserve, where the trust has announced they want to develop a passive-recreation area including disc golf, mountain biking/hiking trails and a bird sanctuary.
Jones spoke to a room of approximately 15 members of the Pickens County Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee and other members of the public about the 211-acre preserve in north Pickens near the Gilmer line. He discussed budget needs, timelines, and the overarching need for community support. Many in attendance offered suggestions for additions to the preserve’s original proposed usages.
STPAL acquired the property via a donation and has established permanent conservation status for the land where they will support their mission of promoting “the quiet enjoyment of nature.”
When asked what the trust’s current needs are Jones said, “Right now what we really need is some kind of ‘Friends of the Nature Preserve’ group to form. This preserve is going to be completely free to the community and we would hope that people will come together and take care of it for future enjoyment.”
Fundraising and ongoing care of the preserve were discussed as possible duties of the support group. Jones was also asked to speak to civic organizations in the community to discuss more about the trust’s needs.
After consulting with mountain biking professionals the director said they envision five miles of bike trails on the property, estimated to cost $100,000 for installation, in addition to design fees. Jones expects some of the cost could be offset by grants.
On the disc golf side, he said the trust will spend $10,000 to have the course professionally designed, which he said would make it “one of the finest courses in the country.”
Estimated costs for the 27-hole disc golf area - proposed to take up 50 acres of the property and include holes that range from 150 feet to 1,000 feet - is $30,000 for build out and $20,000 for tree removal. This brings estimated cost for the entire Talking Rock Nature Preserve between $150,000 and $200,000.
Jones said some funding for the project will come from STPAL selling lots on property they own in a different county, but that they are ready to begin the design phase. He ball-parked construction of mountain bike trails in early 2016 and said both the trails and disc golf installation should be in full swing by fall of 2016.
“And what I’m thinking is that in two to three years we could hand it over to the county to manage, but those [conservation] restrictions will still be in place,” he said. “The deed mandates free or very low cost usage as well.”
One attendee asked if the park would need to be manned by workers. Jones pointed to several parks and recreation areas he personally uses that are unmanned.
Jones noted that a benefit of developing public parks through land trusts is much more efficient and speedy than doing so through government entities.
Members of the Jasper Merchants Association who were in attendance, including Horton’s Pet Supply owner and JMA President Susan Horton and JMA Secretary Paul Poore, said the county would benefit from a five to 10-acre fenced-in dog park in the preserve. There was also talk of an outdoor classroom and amphitheater for kids, using trails for cross country practice and regional meets, an archery range, trail runs to benefit civic organizations, and labeling natural features like trees, plants, etc. for education purposes.
Jones was open to the ideas and said they would fall in line with permanent conservation restrictions that have been placed on the property.
Learn more about Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land at www.stpal.org or follow them on Facebook.