The City Council of Darien has passed a resolution to propose legislation that would allow it to annex 20 square miles of state-owned wetlands, including approximately one-third of Altamaha WMA.
The city plans to zone the property as conservation land and develop the land for “eco-tourism” including hunting, fishing and bird-watching.
The land proposed for annexation includes the popular public duck-hunting areas of Rhetts Island, Champney Island and Butler Island.
Because the city will ask to annex state-owned land, the proposal must pass the Georgia General Assembly. State Rep. Roger Lane (R-Darien) said he had been contacted by the city to sponsor the legislation for the proposed annexation.
“I haven’t seen the proposal yet,” said Rep. Lane. “But I expect that I will support it.”
Georgia Chief of Game Management Mark Whitney said WRD had been in contact with the Darien City Council.
“We told them that our concern is keeping the area open to hunting,” said Mark. “They have expressed to us that annexation will have no impact on hunting or on the management of Altamaha WMA.”
Darien City Councilwoman Kelly Spratt said the annexation wouldn’t restrict hunting or access for hunting on the affected property in any way.
“It won’t have any impact,” she said. “We won’t be managing the land. We are simply drawing a jurisdictional line; it will still be under state control and managed as it always has been.”
The city’s interest, she said is to develop eco-tourism revenue by improving facilities for hunters, fishermen and bird-watchers. The old dairy barn on Hwy 17 would likely become a visitor center, she said.
WRD Region Supervisor of Game Management David Mixon said he had received several calls from concerned duck hunters over the proposal.
Both Whitney and Mixon thought language could be written into the proposal that would prevent any city attempt to restrict hunting on the property now and into the future.
Councilwoman Spratt said she thought the Darien City Council would be agreeable to including language securing the future of hunting on the property. She expects that legislation to allow the annexation will go before the General Assembly this season. WRD is following that process.
“We expect to be at the table when the proposal is written,” said David. “Ensuring that hunting is protected on Altamaha WMA is key for us; that’s not an option.”