I first met Laura Devendorf five years ago when I walked in unannounced and introduced myself as a newly minted neighbor down the road on the North Newport River to her Melon Bluff Nature and Heritage Preserve upriver from our Half Moon Marina condo. I knew then this was a special lady, once I determined she was more intent on keeping this part of coastal Georgia as pristine and pure as could ever be hoped for, opting instead to walk away from obscene sums of development money for one very important principal – protecting the promised land that passed into her stewardship. As a Savannah Morning News story recently documented, this coastal Georgia Lowcountry Eden will continue that way on into perpetuity courtesy of this conservator extraordinaire, the visionary Mrs. Devedorf. As the article says, the Devendorf name once again means conservation.
For 10 years, the family has run Melon Bluff Nature & Heritage Preserve in Midway. Family members will make that effort permanent today with an announcement that they are donating the 2,000 acres of the Liberty County preserve - prime waterfront real estate on the North Newport River - to a foundation they're creating "It will be protected then in perpetuity," said Laura Devendorf. "It will not be allowed to be sold or traded." Increasing taxes and the dual threats of eminent domain and zoning changes have threatened the property, which she estimates is worth $50 million to $100 million. The Devendorfs own about 9,400 acres in Liberty County, with deeds to some of it stretching back to land granted to Laura's ancestors by the King of England in the 1700s. "It's a holistic approach to education and research and public use," Devendorf said.