If a grassroots group can raise $175,000 by Jan. 1, a large swath of land in St. Elmo will be saved from development www.timesfreepress.com

If a grassroots group can raise $175,000 by Jan. 1, a large swath of land in St. Elmo will be saved from development

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If a grassroots group can raise $175,000 by Jan. 1, a large swath of land in St. Elmo will be saved from development

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A grassroots group of St. Elmo residents is trying to conserve 65 acres of undeveloped property in the neighborhood.

To do so, they need to raise $175,000 by Jan. 1.

“I’m a St. Elmo resident and I noticed that the trail system I like to frequent to get me from St. Elmo into the [Chickamauga] national park, and [which] is the best access to Glen Falls — the majority of that trail system’s land is owned by one entity, which I came to discover was an investment group for builder company GreenTech,” said Crisler Torrence, who is now spearheading the effort to safeguard the land from development.

Running behind the community from Glen Falls Road to just beyond the southern spur of Michigan Avenue, the land contains the majority of what is commonly known as St. Elmo Trail. The wooded path runs from the terminus of Glen Falls Road and ties into the Guild Trail system near Ochs Highway, offering residents another entry point behind St. Elmo Park.

“It’s a great corridor to connect people from St. Elmo to the Guild Trail, and that’s a trail that we own,” said Robyn Carlton, CEO of the Lookout Mountain Conservancy, which is working with the neighborhood at their behest.

The local nonprofit would hold the conservation easement on the property if the fundraising goal is met in time.

If they don’t succeed, “he has another buyer that is ready, willing and able to purchase the property,” Carlton said.

GreenTech Director of Development Chris Anderson did not return multiple calls seeking comment.

The discusson between the two parties has been ongoing for a year and a half, said Carlton, but it was GreenTech who recently approached the group with a purchase price of $275,000.

“When I saw that number to 65 acres in St. Elmo, I was shocked — pleasantly so,” she said. “Opportunities like that don’t come up that often, especially that large of a tract and as specific as it is to the neighborhood and what they want.”

To help them in the final fundraising push, the community held a small festival Dec. 15 that featured local vendors, live entertainment and guided hikes to Glen Falls. With only a month of lead time, the event netted over $10,000, Carlton said.

There’s still a long way to go, but she and Torrence are hopeful.

“I am a huge believer that what seems to be impossible is always possible,” said Carlton. “I’m also a big believer that when you’re doing the right thing, the right thing will happen.”

To donate to the effort, visit lookoutmountainconservancy.org and mark the box for “Special Project Alert: St. Elmo 65-acre trail/land purchase.”

Email Jennifer Bardoner at jbardoner@timesfreepress.com.

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