The deal between Raymond M. Reed, 96, of Smyrna and the trust was announced Friday. The 152-acre tract was sold at a discounted price of approximately $2 million to Snellville-based Georgia Piedmont Land Trust. Reed’s family also made cash donations to the trust to provide for the installation of walking trails and public parking space.
The sale was funded by a Civil War Battlefield Land Acquisition Grant administered through the National Parks Service’s American Battlefield Protection program. The use of the federal grant will require public access for educational purposes but the exact nature of how that access will take shape is yet to be determined, said Carol Hassell, spokeswoman for Georgia Piedmont Land Trust.
In a prepared statement Friday, Rebecca Spitler, the board president of Georgia Piedmont Land Trust, said the nonprofit “will work to develop limited public access to Lost Mountain for hiking, nature observation and historical interpretation.
“Preserving the important cultural and historical features of Lost Mountain is consistent with our mission and commitment to the Piedmont region and specifically in Cobb County.”
The public access point will likely be off of Dallas Highway near the historic Lost Mountain Store, which is now a bank office, said an attorney for the seller.
“There will be appropriate access. We have no exact date on when that will occur but we will begin working on it immediately,” Hassell said. “We’ve been working on this over two years, and we will be developing a plan for public access. We do understand people are anxious to get on the land but we want to take a little bit of time to do it in a thoughtful way.”
She said extreme care must be taken to ensure that the property’s historic assets are protected.
During the Civil War, Lost Mountain served as the southwesterly anchor of a 10-mile Confederate defensive line against Union troops marching toward Atlanta preceding the battle of Kennesaw Mountain. Confederate earthworks remain on the property.
Reed, who had a 50-year legal career in Marietta including eight years in the state Legislature and a stint as Cobb County’s attorney, started acquiring the Lost Mountain property in the 1960s.
Curt Soper, The Trust for Public Land’s Georgia state director, said the chance to conserve this much land in such a heavily developed and suburban setting doesn’t come along very often.
“Lost Mountain will remain a historic and natural treasure for people to enjoy and learn from,” Soper said.
Mostly forested, Lost Mountain preserves habitat for diverse species, including the uncommon dwarf Ohio buckeye and running cedar.
One can see the Atlanta skyline and the Alabama mountains from its crest.
Reed and his wife Mary have three children — Debora Reed Hudson, Patricia Reed Carter and Ray Reed Jr. It was that younger generation that saw the project through with the help of Quito Anderson, an attorney with the law firm of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan in Atlanta.
It almost didn’t turn out that way. The tract was headed for development about eight years ago, Anderson said.
“I was working on a conveyance for a development and then we kind of changed directions and decided it was in the best interests of the family to preserve it,” Anderson said. “The children, I think, wanted to see it preserved.”
Five years ago Cobb County placed the tract at the top of its list of properties that it wanted to purchase and develop into public park space with the aid of a $40 million bond that was approved by voters.
“This was the No. 1 site and then the recession hit and it (the acquisition) never got funded,” Anderson said.
Anderson said the 152-acre Reed tract runs up the northern side of the mountain.
“It is basically the whole northern side of the mountain and the eastern slope and some of the southern slope, down to Dallas Highway,” he said.
Its appearance is a stark contrast to another partially developed tract that runs up the western side of the mountain.
“That became really an eyesore that runs up the western side, that runs to the top and abuts our property,” Anderson said. “It runs into Pindos Trail and includes a cul-de-sac, one of those orphans of the recession.”
The Reed land is contiguous and includes a part of the crest, or very top of the mountain, he said. “The crest is shared with that other development.”
“There will probably be some sort of access point with a parking area and trails. We gave a substantial cash endowment to the Georgia Piedmont Land Trust to develop that,” he said.
Public restrooms are also permitted under the terms of the deal, though it remains unclear at this point whether they will be part of the plan.
“It is a gem in the middle of development, so it was one of the last holdouts,” Anderson said. “I found the remnants of an old homestead out there. And I was the one who found the old bulwarks. I was walking around there with the grandson of the owner and said ‘Oh these look like the old trenches from the war.’”
Those bulwarks are at the very western end of what used to be called the old bushy mountain Marietta defensive line.
“The Confederate General Johnson, this is what he set up to stop the advancing Union line,” Anderson said. “It’s a 10-mile defensive line. And it’s part of the Kennesaw Mountain battle feeder. Fighting was on July 15 and 16 of 1864, mainly between dismounted Confederate troops and Col. Benjamin Harrison, who was a Yankee colonel at the time and fought at Lost Mountain. He later became president.”
Anderson speaks glowingly of the land.
“I kind of fell in love with the property,” he said. “I’m a history buff, I love geography, and I’m a real estate attorney, so this was a natural for me to work on.”
Hassell said it was also too early to know if public access would be free.
“I don’t think there’s any prohibition against (charging a fee),” she said. “Our intention isn’t to use this as a huge money maker but we have to make sure we have sufficient funding for not just the basic maintenance and protection but to take appropriate measures for educational programs in the future.”
Goreham on board with project
Reed was quoted in Friday’s news release saying that “Preserving this Lost Mountain property for public use and appreciation is a most satisfying experience for myself and my children. We are glad it will be enjoyed by many Cobb County families for years to come.”
Helen Goreham, who represents the Lost Mountain area of west Cobb on the county Board of Commissioners, said the announcement was long overdue.
“I am thrilled that we have finally found a way to protect this important piece of property,” said Goreham, who also made reference to the property’s “historic and environmental resources.”
The Trust for Public Land partnered with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to secure $2 million in funding for the discounted purchase price through a Civil War Battlefield Land Acquisition Grant, administered by the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program and awarded through the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. LWCF is a federal conservation program and its funding is generated from a portion of revenues paid by oil and gas companies to drill in offshore federal waters, rather than from taxpayer dollars.
The Georgia Piedmont Land Trust is a Georgia nonprofit conservation organization, committed to the preservation of greenspace, lands with historical and archeological importance, and working lands in the Piedmont region of Georgia.
The sale was brokered by The Trust for Public Land. A conservation easement permanently restricting development on the property will be held by Athens Land Trust, an accredited land trust that holds conservation easements protecting 8,123 acres of land in 20 Georgia counties.