Updated: Nov 13
by Hadrien Turner
Dr. Flint in front of one of the two American Chestnut Society orchards on his property.
Dr. Austin Flint, a mostly-retired radiologist and ORLT-easement donor, bought the sprawling Flint Preserve in 2001 from Virginia Carroll Crawford, a known socialite and philanthropist form Atlanta. He first thought about donating it as a state park, but after discussing the idea with his good friend and distant cousin former lieutenant governor Pierre Howard, he decided to place nearly 600 acres of it into permanent conservation with ORLT in 2014. At the time, Mr. Howard was helping connect conservation landowners with land trusts, and he also volunteered for ORLT by documenting butterfly species on special properties.
Dr. Flint found himself spending more and more time on the land. It started with purchasing a tractor, and before he knew it he was building bridges, trails, and engaging in all sorts of management activities. “The more that I did, it finally got to a point where I thought to myself, I never want this property developed,” he says. “It’s what we wanted to do anyways, to protect this property and not have it be developed, have it as a place that 100 years from now or 500 years from now people can come see what things used to look like and how beautiful it was,” Dr. Flint adds.
“When we came to Canton, it was rural. Population of only about 2000. The first big shopping center they built was Riverstone, it used to be all wooded. They put a Belk in and one morning a deer came into the Belk. And that just just makes you wanna cry. That was his home. It’s gone now," Dr. Flint reflects.
Dr. Flint’s love of wildlife, plants and animals is easily apparent. The property boasts a “rainbow bridge” to memorialize all the dogs that their family and close friends have had over the years, and the preserve is a sanctuary for other wildlife. Two sites on Dr. Flint’s preserve are dedicated orchards to help in the American Chestnut Society's efforts to grow American Chestnut trees that will hopefully be resistant to blight and root rot. Reinhardt University biology professors and students also routinely conduct field research there.
Now in his eighties and still residing in nearby Canton, Dr. Flint spends every moment he possibly can on the property, which so happens to be every day. He’s made it a habit to fill the peanut butter station daily for the black bear that occasionally visits to get a delectable treat should it decide to pay the property a visit. Just in case.
When asked about what his favorite part of the property is, his response is both simple and of the utmost clarity; “Just being here.”
McCoy creek is located on Dr. Flint's preserve.