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Auburn promotes green space, forming land trust organization

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AUBURN, ALA--Lee County is rapidly growing, adding more and more people to the most beautiful city on the Plains. According to figures from the 2000 U.S. Census, Lee County, specifically the city of Auburn, is one of the fastest growing areas in Alabama, currently with a population of about 46,000. Of the 67 counties in the state, Auburn is one of the five fastest growing counties. The state of Alabama has 10 percent of America's surface and subsurface water. With all of the benefits associated with continued growth and development, there is one downfall -- the loss of green space. "The majority of green space in Auburn is residential and only available for private use," said Wendy Raines, a senior in horticulture and a member of the American Landscape Contractor's Association. This lack of green space for public use has led some fellow Auburnites, including government officials, teachers, professors and natural resource managers, to form a local land trust organization. Shelia Eckman, Executive Director of the Land Trust of East Alabama and an Auburn City Council member, said that the organization was formed in 1999 after a group of citizens became concerned about the amount of development and "the loss of green space to impervious surfaces, like concrete and pavement." Besides Kiesel Park, there are few areas in Auburn available for residents to enjoy the beauty of nature, Eckman said. The LTEA lists among its goals the "protection of watersheds, preservation of land with special biological value and the promotion of sound development." "Our town is growing by leaps and bounds," said Eckman. "It has a good public school system and has experienced tons of growth. We had a group in town that wanted to save some of the green space, so the LTEA was formed." Auburn put together a green space task force and recommended a land trust. The conservation easement is a legal contract with an agreement reached between the land owner and land trust, said Eckman. Property owners have rights to timber, grazing, development and water use and in return gives up his development rights. "We haven't had any response yet and haven't asked anyone to donate their land yet," said Eckman. "We've spent a lot of time deciding the territory to cover and go over procedures. Currently we're in the midst of a feasibility study, which should end in a month." Among the points LTEA wants to study include: 1) Do people in the community know about the land trust? 2) Have they heard of LTEA? 3) Do they agree with the concept of having a conservation easement? 4) Is there funding available and will the people embrace the concept? The city of Auburn adopted a green space plan and took the city map so areas could be made green they desired to be made green, said Eckman. LTEA asked for easement along streams. In some cases the city and LTEA will work together. They may work with the city easement by either city or land trust. There's been talk about incorporating public parks, but it hasn't been implemented yet. A long range plan could have wetlands parks.

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August 25, 2019, 5:35 am PDT

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