Tim Gilbreath shows Rocktown’s Sentinel rock formation in the Crockford-Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area. Hikers like to take photos of it while hiking on Pigeon Mountain in Walker County, he said.Photo by Katie Ward Hamilton
A recent land purchase by the state will make it easier to access the 16,400-acre Crockford-Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area from LaFayette, Ga.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources on Oct. 30 bought 363 acres of mostly wooded land on state Highway 136 just west of Dripping Springs Road from Steve and Jennifer Tarvin.
"It's the first time we've had access to [Highway] 136," said Steve Friedman, chief of real estate with the Department of Natural Resources. "That access will open up [the wildlife area's] northern end to the public in ways that it never was before."
The state spent $525,000 to buy the acreage, which is in three separate parcels.
"This was a very fair price," Friedman said.
Steve Tarvin has name recognition in Walker County as the president and CEO of the Crystal Springs Print Works textile plant in Chickamauga, which recently closed, and as a candidate for office, most recently an unsuccessful 2012 Republican primary bid against incumbent Jay Neal in House District 2.
The land "was just sitting there," said Tarvin, who said he's owned it since the 1980s. "My family hunts, but we never even hunted on it. We just kind of had it for the beauty of it."
Tarvin was going to auction off the land, but Walker County Attorney Don Oliver caught wind of that and alerted the state agency, which has had its eye on the acreage for years.
"I went back to the state and said, 'Hey, we might have a decent shot at it this time,'" said Oliver, who called the land "a very critical piece in terms of the big picture of our greenspace and greenways master plan."
"There's no county money involved" Oliver added. "A lot of county effort, but no money."
Funding came from the state, the Lyndhurst Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Friedman said.
"We had some really good partners," said Friedman, who also praised the county and the Tarvins for working with the state.
Tarvin said an appraisal showed the land was worth 40 percent more than he got for it.
"I really wanted it to go to the wildlife preserve," Tarvin said. "I wanted it to go into preservation."
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6651.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.