Land Trust and Southeast Georgia Health System Preserve in Perpetuity Rare South-End Island Property
Ten-Acre Forested Parcel is “Gateway” to St. Simons Island
The St. Simons Land Trust and the Southeast Georgia Health System (SGHS) are proud to announce a partnership that will protect in perpetuity a roughly ten-acre tract of forested property on the south-end of St. Simons Island. Known as the “Gateway” property because of its proximity to the westbound access lanes of the F. J. Torras Causeway, the land is bounded by Sea Island Road to the east, Demere Road to the south, and is contiguous with the historic Gascoigne Bluff Park (to the west) that is owned and managed by Glynn County.
The property was previously owned by the Sea Island Company and was sold to SGHS in 2003. Part of the original larger tract of land that was owned by Sea Island includes the present-day medical complex on Wellness Way and an adjoining five-acre tract of undisturbed land that the Health System is retaining as a buffer to Sea Island Road.
“Most of the Land Trust’s recent acquisitions have been on the north-end of St. Simons and in the mid-island area along Frederica Road,” said Emily Ellison, Executive Director of the Land Trust. “It has become increasingly difficult to find sizeable parcels of undeveloped land on the south end, especially those with such high visibility and that contain important habitat, natural areas, and walking trails.”
Scott Raynes, MBA, MA, President and CEO of Southeast Georgia Health System, added, “Because this property is located at one of the gateways to St. Simons, and is passed daily by those entering and leaving the island, our board of directors and leadership team are grateful that we were able to partner with the St. Simons Land Trust to protect this important tract of land from development.”
The property is connected hydrologically to the marsh habitat to the south across the Torras Causeway and has numerous environmental values including mature trees, mid and understory shrubby, and marsh/upland fringe habitat. These natural features support nesting native and migratory birds such as wood storks, osprey, hawks, owls, and songbirds. A bald eagle and painted bunting have been sighted frequently on the property or surrounding area as well as saltmarsh and Nelson’s sparrows.
“It is rare to find this kind of undeveloped habitat on the southern end of St. Simons,” said Greer Brown, Chair of the Land Trust’s Board of Directors. “For this and multiple other reasons, the Land Trust is honored to partner with Southeast Georgia Health System to protect the area forever.”
Funds used to acquire the property came from multiple sources, including revenue from the Land Trust’s Pennies for Preservation 1% voluntary giving program, money from last year’s Phase II of the SSLT Canopy Campaign (a $5.5 million capital campaign), and funds from a bequest that was received earlier this year.
“Acquisitions of this size, that benefit the entire community, could not be made without the generous support of so many,” added Ellison. “We are truly grateful to be part of a community that works together to conserve the natural and historic significance of this island.”