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Recent photo taken at Fort Frederica National Monument, practicing social distancing, left to right are, Steve Theus, site manager, Fort Frederica National Monument; Don Myers, former St. Simons Land Trust board member; Susan Shipman, chair, SSLT Board of Directors; Emily Ellison, executive director SSLT; U.S. Representative Buddy Carter, R-1, Ga.; Gary Ingram, area superintendent, National Park Service.

Fort Frederica National Monument’s boundaries have increased in recent months thanks to a nearly a 15-year partnership with the St. Simons Land Trust. In 2007, Fort Frederica’s leadership was approached about the land trust purchasing a roughly 20-acre parcel of undeveloped land owned by the Sea Island Co. on the northern boundary of the national monument. The intent of the initial proposal was that the land trust would acquire and hold the property until legislation could be passed in the U.S. Congress and signed into law by the President of the United States, allowing the National Park Service to subsequently purchase the property from the land trust.

In March 2019, President Donald Trump signed into law the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act (S.47). This act allowed the National Park Service to acquire the 20.852 acres the St. Simons Land Trust had been holding. In February, the sale of the Northern Marsh Tract to the NPS was completed.

These culturally and environmentally significant acres, known as the Northern Marsh Tract, have now officially become a part of Fort Frederica National Monument. The Northern Marsh Tract is off West Point Drive in the northwest section of St. Simons Island. The forested upland is contiguous with the north boundary of the Fort Frederica National Monument and was the site of the garden plot for the 18th century British settlement.

“It took as many dedicated people as it did years to bring this long-standing joint venture to its valuable conclusion,” said Emily Ellison, executive director of the St. Simons Land Trust. “The real heroes in this public/private partnership are U.S. Representative Buddy Carter (R-1, Ga.) and his staff, especially Hart Thompson, legislative assistant in Congressman Carter’s office; Jack Overstreet, in former Senator Johnny Isakson’s office; Gary Ingram and Joe Cook, area superintendent and realty specialist land resources division, respectively, of the National Park Service; representatives of Glynn County government; Ben Slade, the land trust’s co-founder and former executive director; Sue Tuttle, our finance and stewardship director and Don Myers, a former board member. It was Don who was particularly tenacious in keeping the issue in front of the people who could help make this acquisition possible.”

Celebrations for transfer of the property from the Land Trust to the National Park Service were delayed because of restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. A ribbon-cutting ceremony, hosted by the Friends of Fort Frederica, is being planned for fall.

Currently, Fort Frederica National Monument is in the planning stages of developing nature trails with wayside exhibits and interpretive signage that will help tell the story of those who once lived and worked on the property, including Native Americans. Further archeological research will also take place on the site.