Incorporated as Georgia’s first countywide conservancy in 2000, the Madison-Morgan Conservancy has grown into an effective and influential organization, serving both locally and statewide as a resource for protecting natural, agricultural, and historic resources, promoting the region’s local agricultural industry, and preserving the quality of life and sense of place found in Morgan County.
As a high school student in Atlanta with deep family roots in Morgan County, Katie Vason was challenged by her teacher to “do something” about a place she loved. Thankfully she chose Morgan County and asked her dad, Wayne, to help her organize a local conservancy. A board of eight local citizens was formed, articles of incorporation and bylaws written, and they were off to the races, organizing educational forums as their first step in understanding the complex land use issues involved in conservation and sustainable development.
Today the Conservancy’s unique holistic approach to conservation includes collaboration with land trusts and other partners to: 1) provide education, advocacy, and technical assistance 2) protect critical resources, and 3) grow the local food system. See our Strategic Plan 2017-2021 to learn more.
To date, this work has resulted in the permanent protection of over 4,800 acres through the donation of conservation easements by private landowners; a Junior Conservancy; an Endangered Properties Revolving Fund; 60+ educational forums; Georgia’s first countywide Greenprint (2004); “FARMeander,” Georgia’s first agritourism farm trail (2011-present); development of Farmview Market as a regional food hub; restoration of numerous historic structures; and an effective working relationship with local governments.
The mission of the Madison-Morgan Conservancy is to provide public education on conservation matters and to protect and enhance the heritage and quality of life of the residents of Morgan County, by preserving historic sites, greenspace, farmland, and timberland.
The Conservancy has accomplished its work by building strong partnerships, educating the public and local decision-makers, identifying and documenting threatened resources, and utilizing innovative tools to protect those resources. We do not work in isolation, but rather work collaboratively, with local and statewide non-profit organizations, government agencies, and individual stakeholders. The result:
- Conservation Easements – Over 4,800 acres protected through voluntarily donated conservation easements by private landowners in Morgan County (more acreage protected in surrounding counties)
- Establishment of the Endangered Properties Revolving Fund in Morgan County (the second largest of its kind in the state) for the protection of openspace as well as historic structures.
- TDR – Helped draft a transferable development rights (TDR) ordinance for the City of Madison, which was adopted in May 2014 and has resulted in permanent protection of 33 acres and the development of a LEED certified residential complex.
- Development Review Committee reviewed nine development plans since 2006, reporting to the Morgan County Planning Commission on the pros and cons of each development plan.
- Development Review Committee was instrumental in securing four unanimous votes (County and Regional Commission) for disapproval of an application for a regional landfill within 1.5 miles of the City of Madison
- Created and published FARMeander: GA’s first “farm trail” a map-based tour guide to local farms in and around Morgan County
- Regional Food Hub: Led an effort to bring a regional food hub to Morgan County.
- Farm To School: Helped launch a Farm to School program in Morgan County School System.
- Listed the Bryans, Broach, and Williams Family Farms GA’s Centennial Farm Register.
- Hosted 60+ educational forums since 2001, including the longest-running annual Conservation Easement Workshop in the state and four Greenprint Rambles
- Greenprints: in 2004 initiated the creation and adoption of the Morgan County Greenprint, in 2009 assisted in drafting the City of Madison Greenprint, and in 2017 completed an update of Morgan County’s Greenprint.
- Launched the Junior Conservancy in 2017: high school students serving on a mock board of directors, designing and executing their own conservation-related programming.
- Foster-Thomason-Miller House constructed in 1883. As the first project of the Endangered Properties Revolving Fund, the Conservancy purchased the FTM House in May, 2018, stabilized the structure, permanently protected it with a conservation easement, listed it for sale with Lewis and Redwine Real Estate Group, and sold it to a conservation buyer who agreed to rehab the structure within three years.
- Sugar Creek Baptist Church constructed in 1915. In 2015-2016 saved Sugar Creek Church from demolition. Conservancy staff and advisors assisted the church in assessing the alternatives to demolition of the 100 year old sanctuary with assistance from Curtis Whitsel of Whitsel Construction. After months of negotiation with the church, a new owner was found to move and rehabilitate the structure within a mile of its original site on the same road. The building continues to be used as a chapel and event facility.
- Nolan House c. 1905: listed on the National Register (2015). On behalf of the landowner, the Conservancy staff prepared the nomination for the National Register of Historic Places for the Nolan House. The house was listed in February 2015.
- Malcom House c. 1906. In 2014-2015, assisted the landowner in rehabilitating the historic homestead at Malcom’s Crossroads (provided advice on materials conservation methods, labor, tax credits, etc.).
- Wallace Grove School constructed in 1901. In 2012, partnered with Wallace Grove Baptist Church in the restoration of Morgan County’s last in situ African American school from the turn of the century.
- 399 Jefferson Street c. 1890. In 2010 partnered with Morgan County Landmarks in the preservation of a Victorian Era cottage in downtown Madison. The cottage was purchased by the GA Trust for Historic Preservation through their Revolving Fund and sold with a façade easement to a preservation-minded buyer.