Forever Wild looks at land near Cahawba

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 16, 2005

The Selma-Times Journal

The staff of Old Cahawba Park received some good news on Thursday when the Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust Board agreed to consider purchasing several acres of land next to the park for public use.

The state’s Forever Wild board-which purchases private property for recreation, hunting or protecting endangered species-met at the St. James Hotel to hear testimony from Chris Oberholster, Director of Conservation Programs for the Nature Conservancy of Alabama, about the need to protect the Black Belt Prairies.

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Oberholster asked the board to consider purchasing more than 1,900 acres of land next to Old Cahawba Park. The land, which is currently privately owned, is located near the park and several acres face the Cahawba River.

“It has a great game population,” Oberholster said. “It is also home to rare plant and animal populations.”

Oberholster said the land is one of the “first true Black Belt Prairies” to be nominated for use as public land.

“This is an opportunity to diversify what Old Cahawba has to offer,” Oberholster told the board.

Alabama Historical Commission archeologist Linda Derry told board members that Old Cahawba Park is home to three cemeteries, including a slave cemetery, historic columns and two historic homes.

“(The land) has a great archeological potential,” Derry told the board. “It would be a relic landscape next to a wild landscape.”

After the testimonies, the board unanimously approved a motion to make a first appraisal for the Old Cahawba Black Belt Prairie.

Jim Griggs, the State Lands Director, said after the land is appraised a report will be presented to the board.

“If the board tells us to proceed, then we will talk to the land owner (about purchasing the land),” Griggs said. “There will be a second appraisal and then a purchase can be made.”

Griggs said the process of purchasing land for public use is “long and detailed” and it could be awhile before the board begins the process of purchasing the land.

Griggs said all the lands purchased under the Alabama Forever Wild Program are for public use or additions to parks.

“The Forever Wild program is about protecting Alabama’s natural beauty. No structures can be built on the lands,” Griggs said.

The Forever Wild board meets four times a year.