111319_MNS_full_Springmont_water students with teacher

From left, Springmont School students and upper elementary teacher Ellen Boecker talk about the data they collected on World Water Monitoring Day at John Ripley Forbes Big Trees Forest Preserve in 2019. The students’ names were not released to protect their privacy.

Sandy Springs’ John Ripley Forbes Big Trees Forest Preserve is being spotlighted on a national level.

“Big Trees is a natural wonder nestled within a bustling urban environment,” Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul said in a news release.

“Within steps of entering the park, the natural beauty of the trees surrounds you. We are proud of the national designation recognizing the big importance of this nature preserve.”

At its Feb. 16 meeting, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sandy Springs City Council voted 6-0 to approve a designation to include Big Trees in the Old-Growth Forest Network.

The Easton, Maryland-based Network is the nation’s group of “protected, native publicly accessible mature forests,” according to its website.

Big Trees, which started as a cotton farm and homestead in the 1860s, was protected by Fulton County and the state in 1990 through a conservation easement before Sandy Springs incorporated, and later it became a city park. Ten of the property’s 30 acres are owned by the state and the rest by Sandy Springs.

According to a city document on the designation, the preserve’s largest tree is a 50-inch white oak and has 47 landmark trees, meaning those trees are larger than others and have special value in that they’re irreplaceable by any means.

“That means those trees are roughly 150 years old. (Also), 115 bird species have been identified,” Catherine Mercier-Baggett, the city’s sustainability manager, said at the meeting.

Of the designation, District 4 Councilwoman Jody Reichel said, “This is so exciting. I read all about the Old-Growth Forest Preserve Network today and I’m excited we’re joining it.”

Paul asked if the city’s other nature preserve, Lost Corner Preserve, would also qualify to be part of the Network.

“We looked at Lost Corner and unfortunately we didn’t find enough trees to qualify,” Mercier-Baggett said.

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