EIOG named trustee of Fairburn Natural Center

Tue, 02/10/2009 - 4:29pm
By: Ben Nelms

Environmental Institute of Georgia (EIOG) is a local non-profit that has already begun to make its mark of Fayette County through environmental education projects. Formed in 2008 by a group of largely Fayette County residents, EIOG last month became the trustee of a 310-acre nature preserve on Bohannon Road owned by the city of Fairburn.

“(City) staff is proposing that council designate the newly established Environmental Institute of Georgia as the official trustee for the nature center and the (wetlands) mitigation project,” City Administrator Jim Williams told Fairburn City Council members prior to the vote Jan. 26. “The institute should be charged with the responsibility for administering the mitigation project ... and should be assigned the responsibility of overseeing the actual development of the nature center as part of the overall community education and recreation development program.”

Williams also announced that EIOG will establish offices in the recently opened, city-owned education campus anchored by Georgia Military College.

“Through the partnership of the mayor and city council, the Environmental Institute of Georgia and the new Fairburn College Campus, we stand to create something that not only the city of Fairburn can be proud of, but the State of Georgia as well,” EIOG Chair Connie Thomas Biemiller said at the Jan. 26 city council meeting and just minutes before a standing ovation from the audience at the end of her remarks.

“We are creating a space for education, preservation and restoration, spurring economic development for the city and creating a sustainable life for the community and all those students that pass this way. When many cities are only beginning to contemplate how to green their community, Fairburn stands ready to begin to reap the monetary rewards of a green partnership.”

The nature preserve property is situated on 310 acres along Bohannon Road near Kirkley Road and is adjacent to the Fayette County line. The site was originally intended to serve as a wastewater treatment facility for the city. But the city council a few years ago abandoned those plans and, on Williams recommendation, turned the acreage into a nature preserve.

EIOG may be relatively new as an organization, but some of its members are well-established in addressing a range of physical environment and environmental health issues.

Two of the five EIOG board members include environmental activist and Fayetteville resident Dennis Chase and Biemiller, the north Fayette resident known for her work with South Fulton and Fayette Community Task Force.

Joining them on the board are Yomi Noibi, Executive Director of the Atlanta-based environmental non-profit Eco-Action, architect and Peachtree City resident Bill Holland and environmental activist and Tyrone resident Bonnie Tenney.

Commenting on the new partnership with Fairburn, Biemiller said, “It is a great honor to be a part of such an alliance that reaches for the highest good of all who reside in and around the South Fulton and Fayette communities.”

EIOG board members said they are committed to advocacy designed to protect the public from environmental hazards while, simultaneously, protecting the natural world.

The organization’s multi-faceted mission includes providing environmental education and legislative support to communities across Georgia by protecting the state’s diverse and sustainable natural environment, establishing a state-of-the-art green space to serve the community, providing conduits for environmental science and interdisciplinary studies and research, impacting the legislative and political process through statewide training and communicating to inform and educate through statewide publications, board members said.

A long-time advocate of environmental education who can often be seen teaching students along Fayette County creekbeds, retired U.S. Fish & Wildlife biologist Dennis Chase always has multiple efforts on his plate that span nearly all of Fayette County. The decision by the Fairburn City Council, said Chase, provides even more opportunities for teaching in nature rather than teaching about it.

“We met after the Fairburn City Council meeting to compare notes on the events of last Monday night. To say the least, we were elated by the reception we received from the Fairburn residents attending the meeting, city staff, mayor and council members. That level of welcome provides us with reassurance that our efforts will have an excellent chance of providing this area with the environmental education opportunities that we know are needed and now appreciated,” Chase said. “Now we will begin to set up some of our ‘special project’ programs and put more detail into how the nature area will be developed. Since the city council’s decision, we have made contact with county Science Coordinators and there is a lot more to come in the very near future.”

Those efforts will also include environmental education opportunities for Georgia Military College students through GMC Director Debbie Condon and the school’s Science Dept. Chair Dr. Njoroge Muigwa.

Contacted last week, Williams had only praise for EIOG and its efforts.

“I think this was a red-letter day,” Williams said of the council’s decision and the partnership with EIOG. “Fairburn is very fortunate. They’re a really competent group that set themselves up to succeed.”

Some of EIOG’s efforts to date include:

Co-sponsored the Energy Independence Conference at the Carter Center in the Spring of 2008;

Conducted Eastern Box Turtle Studies in three streams in Fayette County beginning Spring 2008;

Coordinated the Rivers Alive Clean-ups in the the City of Fayetteville, Fayette County and Peachtree City in the fall 2008 and the upcoming clean-ups in fall 2009;

Sponsoring a Canoe Trip down the southern portion of the Chattahoochee River on March 28;

Coordination of the upcoming 2009 Fayette County Earth Day on April 25; and

Sponsoring upcoming Environmental Conferences to be announced.

Biemiller is founder of the South Fulton and Fayette Community Task Force, which was created due to an environmental poisoning of her surrounding community. Biemiller has been a Licensed Clinical Social Worker for the past 18 years and uses her clinical and managerial skills to bring about vibrant and lasting changes for communities across Georgia.

Chase is an environmental activist who works extensively with the Adopt A Stream program, school groups, and many other efforts in Fayette and surrounding counties on a wide range of environmental issues. Chase served for more than 26 years with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. He was responsible for handling National Environmental Policy Act activities for 10 Southeastern states.

Holland is an award-winning architect with nearly 40 years experience in the public and private sectors specializing in architectural design, program management, and sustainability. Holland previously served as City Architect for Los Angles and chaired numerous sustainability initiatives before moving to Peachtree City, GA. Holland currently serves as technical advisor on the EIOG campus design.

Noibi is an environmental scientist and community organizer who served on the faculty of educational institutions such as University of Wisconsin and University of Lagos, Nigeria. Noibi is executive director and director of training of Atlanta-based Environmental Community Action, Inc. (Eco-Action), a nonprofit that addressed environmental health threats.

Tenney is an environmental activist with more than 30 years experience working on environmental initiatives and serving on planning and preservation boards. Tenny founded EarthScape Design landscaping in New York, and was editor of Cornell University Co-Operative Extension Publications before moving to Tyrone two years ago.

For more information on the Environmental Institute of Georgia visit www.eiog.org.

login to post comments