The Effingham County Board of Education closed on a big gift just in time for the holidays.
“I don’t know if very many gifts like this actually take place throughout the state,” said Superintendent Randy Shearouse, “but it’s certainly good that the school board can receive it.”
Board members and Barry and Christine Sheehy signed the paperwork that finalized the Sheehys’ gift of 128 acres of the couple’s Effingham land to the school system in a land trust.
For three years, the board and the Sheehys have been working to give the school system full ownership and responsibility for a tract of land in the south end of the county.
Since then, Barry Sheehy has carved our trails and constructed covered bridges throughout the property for them, neighbors and friends to use for recreation and horseback riding.
As previously reported in the Herald, Sheehy and the property’s grounds keeper, local Richard Cooler, decided to give the land to the Effingham County BoE because they saw them as trustworthy and their leaders as strong and sound. They also had considered the University of Georgia and other potential partners.
Barry Sheehy bought the land and put it in a trust a few years ago to keep developers from clearing its lush forest. Sheehy previously said that he did not do it as an environmentalist but as a conservationist who believes in balanced development and land use. He said that with Effingham’s proximity to the airport and Savannah, the property, dubbed Lisnacullen, could be one of the few green spaces around in 20 years.
Said BoE chairman Lamar Allen: “The main reason he’s doing this now is because he’s scared that 10 years from now there won’t be any forest in Effingham County, there won’t be any trees left — the way it was being cut at one time. He wants this land left so there will be some in the county anyways.”
Shearouse said that the school system intends to use the property for agriculture classes, ROTC, cross-country teams and perhaps biology classes.
Sheehy, a native Canadian and local historian, has said he hopes students will be able to learn an appreciation for resources, sustainable development and nature.
As stipulated in the agreement, Lisnacullen will stay in the Georgia Land Trust and thus will never be developed and the public, during certain times, will continue to be able to use the property for horseback riding and hiking as well.
“We’ve checked this out with our board attorney,” Shearouse told board members. “We’ve checked this out with our insurance company. They were able to give us a very favorable rating as far as that piece of property goes.”
The Sheehys signed the agreement earlier this month before heading back to Canada. Board members and the superintendent expressed their gratitude and signed the agreement at their Dec. 15 meeting.
“I think, like I said, for our county and our school system to receive it is a great gift that hopefully our students for long after we’re gone will be benefitting from that piece of property,” Shearouse said.