1. Before the first meeting of the new movement to regain Harris Neck, research was done
on the history of Harris Neck. The Last Will & Testament of Margret Ann Harris,
executed September 2, 1865, was found – legal proof of the ownership of Harris Neck.
2. The history of Harris Neck was presented along with a review of the first Harris Neck movement to regain the land, and a roughly-outlined strategy for the present/second movement to regain Harris Neck. Developments that should help make this second movement successful were discussed. Two of these were: the 1992 Congressional award of reparations to Japanese American families unjustly treated during World War II and the 2005 return, by Congress, of more than 15,000 acres to the Colorado River Indian Tribes (land taken some 90 years ago via Executive Action under President Wilson).
3. A list of all families that lived (or owned land) on Harris Neck in 1942 was assembled.
4. Almost all of the families that lived on Harris Neck in 1942 were located, and a family representative was chosen for each of these families. Some families no longer exist.
5. The Harris Neck Land Trust LLC was officially formed with the help of Brunswick attorney Austin Catts, and Russ Marane, then the coastal representative of the Trust for Public Land, now the president of the St. Simons Land Trust.
6. A Board of Trustees for the Harris Neck Land Trust was formed, and Officers were elected.
7. An Advisory Board and an Executive Committee were created.
8. A post office address and phone number were established for the Trust.
9. An official Harris Neck web site was created (www.harrisnecklandtrust.org).
10. Learning from the first Harris Neck movement and with the help and advice of Russ Marane, Kathleen Cleaver, Orson Porter and others, an overall strategy was formulated to regain Harris Neck.
11. The creation of a “Vision” for the new Harris Neck community began.
12. A Mission Statement was written and adopted.
13. It was decided that the six existing ponds, although actually created by US Fish & Wildlife, would be protected forever.
14. It was also decided that access to these ponds, via the existing road and/or walking trails, would be maintained for the general public after the land is returned to the community.
15. Political and Media strategies, to assist with the return of Harris Neck, were formulated.
16. A resolution supporting the Harris Neck Land Trust for the return of Harris Neck was passed, unanimously, by the McIntosh County Board of Commissioners on January 9, 2007.
17. A draft Community Development/Land Use Plan was developed with the help of jB+a, Inc.
in Atlanta. In this plan areas are set aside for residential use, farming, forestry, green space,
general public use, and community open space.
18. It was decided that a significant amount of Harris Neck acreage will be put into and protected
by a Conservation Easement to be managed by the Georgia Land Trust, the Harris Neck Land
Trust, or another land trust.
19. It was also decided that an official/professional Environmental Assessment and Cultural Site
Inventory was needed – that members of Congress would need to see that this was done
professionally and that the findings would be incorporated into the Land Use Plan. The
Harris Neck Land Trust contracted with Ecological Solutions, Inc. in Atlanta to do this work.
Their final report was delivered in November 2007.
20. The Harris Neck movement was opened to all families that owned property in 1942, meaning the few White families that never lived in Harris Neck but owned land there.
21. Official Harris Neck letterhead and logo were created. T-shirts with new logo were made.
22. A 65th Anniversary fund-raiser, commemorating the day of eviction on July 27, 1942, was held on July 28, 2007 on the grounds of FAB Church of Harris Neck.
23. A contract was signed for a documentary on Harris Neck, and work on this film began in January 2007.
24. In this contract it was agreed that in the making of this documentary film oral histories of Harris Neck elders and others would be recorded and that these recordings would be owned by the Trust and could be used in a museum/interpretive center or community center in the new Harris Neck community.
25. Research on Titles to property in Harris Neck in 1942 was done by Vondell Walker, Treasurer of the Trust, for the purpose of having official proof of ownership by all 75-plus families for the US Congress.
26. A meeting was held with the Georgia Land Trust to discuss the possibility of putting a significant amount of Harris Neck, probably more than 50 percent of the total acreage, into a Conservation Easement to be held by the Georgia Land Trust in perpetuity.
27. A member of the Harris Neck Advisory Board met with the General Counsel of the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) in Arizona to discuss the strategies used by CRIT to regain the 15,000-plus acres taken from them, via an Executive Order, more than 90 years ago. CRIT pledged its support to the Harris Neck movement.
28. Preliminary discussions were held separately with Congressman Jack Kingston and Congressman John Barrow to advise them of the present Harris Neck movement, give them necessary background information, and request their support of the present movement.
29. It was decided that a Non-Profit Corporation should be set up under the Harris Neck Land Trust LLC. This will allow the Trust to apply to foundations for different types of funding and also permit individuals and other donors to make tax-deductible donations.
30. Fund-Raising and Development strategies are being developed.
31. It was decided that a Covenant or Governance Agreement, between the Trust and each family in the new Harris Neck community, was needed; this is being developed.
32. The Community Development/Land Use Plan was finalized and adopted by all family
33. A meeting was held with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in Atlanta in March ’08 to
discuss funding for certain elements of the Harris Neck movement by foundations, churches and other organizations. During the first Harris Neck movement, the Emergency Land Fund assisted Harris Neck with financial support and technical assistance. The ELF merged into the Federation in 1985, and the Director of the ELF, who was involved in the first Harris Neck movement, is now Director of the Land Assistance Fund for the Federation. He plans to visit Harris Neck to discuss financial support of the present movement through the Federation.
34. Three members of Harris Neck’s Advisory Board met in Washington, DC in April ’08 with
Congressman John Conyers and with the Legislative Assistants of Congressmen John Lewis and James Clyburn to discuss Harris Neck and ask for their support of a Bill in the House. All three Members pledged their support.
35. In order to fund particular infrastructure needs, the Harris Neck Land Trust BOD decided to
explore the possibility of partnering with an ecologically sensitive developer to develop a small percentage of Harris Neck, set aside in the Community Development Plan for commer-cial purposes. Conversations have been held with the H. J. Russell Company of Atlanta, and a representative of the company visited Harris Neck in May ‘08. This company has since expressed strong interest in partnering with the Trust. Additional meetings have been held.
36. Two members of the Advisory Board met with Congressman Jack Kingston in June ’08 to ask
him to sponsor the legislation in the US House of Representatives.
37. At the suggestion of US Representatives James Clyburn and Jack Kingston, the Trust
contacted the Legislative Affairs office of US Fish & Wildlife in Washington, DC in June ’08 to advise them of the present Harris Neck movement. Information on the movement and other background information were sent to this office.
38. Legislation to effect the return of Harris Neck has been drafted for introduction to the US
House of Representatives in the 111th Congress.
39. Members of the Harris Neck Board of Directors met, in December 2009, with key members of Congress and senior staff of the US Fish & Wildlife Service to discuss Harris Neck and how a just and equitable resolution can finally be achieved. This meeting ended positively with a commitment by all in attendance that a follow-up meeting be held early in 2010 to continue discussions.