Springfield Legacy Foundation

Coastal Georgia's Last Great Save



The Springfield Legacy Foundation (SLF) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit partnership of four environmental, historic and cultural institutions, dedicated to research, conservation and education. The new Foundation seeks to demonstrate man’s interrelationship with his landscape while protecting important resources in the North Newport and Medway River basins of coastal Georgia.


The SLF will serve as a model for innovative and rational land stewardship. The SLF will promote visionary ideas and attract essential scientific and humanities research by supporting relevant projects on the 2,000-acre tract known as Melon Bluff Nature and Heritage Reserve. This tract is being donated to the Foundation by Laura Devendorf.

Located thirty miles south of Savannah, Georgia, and 100 miles north of Jacksonville, Florida, Melon Bluff is easily accessible to the public from I-95 which also forms its western boundary. This magnificent landscape borders the wild and scenic North Newport River and includes heritage oaks, salt marsh, hardwood swamps, freshwater lakes, former rice fields, meadows, and pine uplands. It also includes the Melon Bluff Nature Center, an outdoor classroom, and the Sam Ripley Farm. This African-American homestead—now on the National Register of Historic Places—is also where heritage crops including the unique seminole pea™ are grown.


Opened to the public by the Devendorf family in 1997, Melon Bluff features 25 miles of grassed trails including the interpretive Forested Flyways Birding Trail—a partnership with the American Forest Foundation. It also includes the exceptional Live Oaking Trail, a holistic presentation of one of the most important and overlooked periods in American history when the Southern live oak was a natural resource as internationally significant as oil is today.


Melon Bluff provides natural upland and estuarine systems for academic research in the natural sciences, humanities and archaeology. Site-based education, exhibits and trails, and outreach programs will facilitate public access to Foundation research projects.

Laura Devendorf, Georgia’s Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year in 2000 and recipient of both the prestigious 2007 Rock Howard Award and the National Arbor Day Foundation’s 2003 National Good Stewardship Award, has examined land preservation strategies in great detail since assuming ownership of family lands 43 years ago. The Springfield Legacy Foundation—named after the original Crown grant to Mrs. Devendorf’s ancestors in 1755—follows the same principles of self-sufficiency and respect for the land passed down through the generations. For example, in 1966, before there were laws in place to protect the Georgia salt marsh, her father, John P. Stevens, formally dedicated the family marshland to conservation.


The unique design of the Foundation will enable the land, essentially, to own itself and to be shared with the public through responsible, intelligent use, guided by the diverse, complimentary stewards on its board of directors. Partners include Georgia Sea Grant, the University of Georgia School of Forestry and Natural Resources, Seabrook Village Foundation, and the Archaeology Institute of the University of West Florida.


Copyright 2018 Springfield Legacy Foundation