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ORLT in the Beginning

by Hans Neuhauser

It all started over a couple of beers. In 1992, Rand Wentworth, the Georgia Director for the Trust for Public Land (and later the President of the Land Trust Alliance) and I (then Vice President of the Georgia Conservancy) were speculating about the absence of land trusts in Georgia. We decided that the absence wasn’t due to hostility but to lack of knowledge. Few people in the state knew what a land trust was or what one could do for land conservation. Rand and I planned to remedy that deficiency by holding a series of programs around Georgia to introduce community leaders to land trusts. Programs were held in Athens, Atlanta, Brunswick, Rome and Savannah.

Our presentation in Athens was sponsored by the Athens Chapter of the Georgia Conservancy and held at the UGA State Botanical Garden. Madeline Van Dyck, co-chair of the Athens Chapter and others subsequently decided to start a land trust that would focus on the conservation of the Oconee River watershed. She recruited me and others to serve on the initial board.

On May 26, 1993, the Land Conservation Trust of the Oconee, Inc. (later re-named the Oconee River Land Trust) was incorporated by Laurie Fowler, Counsel. The initial board of directors were: Madeline Van Dyck (chair), Dan Hope, Terry DeMeo, Joe Heikoff, Laurie Fowler, Al Ike, Hans Neuhauser, Rob Fisher, Milton Hill and Walt Cook. Each board member contributed strengths that, together, set the new land trust on the road to the successes over the past 30 years that we celebrate today.

Photos by Kathy Parker

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