By Joey Mason, chairman of the board
and Linda Bains, executive director
Sandy Springs Conservancy

Once a wagonstop on the way to Atlanta, Sandy Springs has lost much of its rural character, and is quickly shifting from a bedroom community to a new urban center. Commercial and residential development moves at a fast pace all around us. It’s an economic boon but intensifies the demand for natural resources – land and water – and drives land values skyward.

At the same time, we know that viable communities must invest in their ‘green infrastructure’ to protect the environment, conserve land for parks, green and open space, and for preservation of cultural and historic resources.

How do we balance these opposing demands on land and other resources while ensuring the economic health of the community?

Communities across the country are wrestling with these issues, and many, like Austin Texas, Ann Arbor Michigan, Newark, New Jersey, have turned for help to the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national non-profit organization which has been in the business of “conserving land for people” for more than thirty years. TPL has a proven track record of working with local governments to help create, finance, and manage land conservation programs. In the Atlanta metro area, we see TPL’s leadership in the Chattahoochee River Land Protection Campaign, (protecting 180 miles of river and watershed from Helen to Columbus), the Atlanta Beltline project, and the land conservation programs in Paulding, Gwinnett, and Cobb Counties.

These communities are using TPL’s Greenprint – both a process and a modeling tool – to help identify and prioritize conservation goals, and create the funding and land acquisition strategies to implement these goals.

Through a series of public meetings, the Greenprint process brings local government, civic and community partners together to identify conservation priorities, formulate and adopt a ‘conservation vision’.

The Greenprint modeling tool, a dynamic, geographic information system (GIS) integrates the ‘vision’ with local data to create a map of land which needs to be protected, based on the community’s conservation criteria. The map drives the long-term funding strategy – how much and what kind of funds need to be raised to acquire and maintain the land for the public benefit.

A Greenprint is really a community blueprint for balanced, sustainable growth.

City Manager John McDonough is a strong advocate for “Greenprinting”. As the former manager of Beaufort, South Carolina, he worked with TPL and community leaders to implement a successful program there. John wants to “Greenprint” Sandy Springs. We’re pleased the City Council agrees, having given John a preliminary approval to move forward on the project.

We, the Sandy Springs Conservancy, wholeheartedly agree. We think a Greenprint is the right tool to help us prioritize our conservation needs and chart a course for sustainable development.

An initial Greenprint, including TPL’s management of the public visioning process and the GIS tool will cost approximately $80,000. We are pleased to join the City, the Friends of Sandy Springs (City’s non-profit, fundraising organization), and The Trust for Public Land to fund this important program.