Popular Bartow County wildlife area now closed to public

A huge wildlife preserve in Bartow County is now closed to the public.

After four decades, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ lease for the Pinelog Wildlife Management Area is up and says the land is off limits to the public as of June 1.

"It’s a beautiful, charmed area. It’s the wildlife and quietness of the area," said Kellie Rivera who often visited to fish or go for a walk.

The Pinelog Wildlife Management area would attract nature enthusiasts from across north Georgia.

"Just being out, enjoying God’s creation, it means everything," said David Pearce.

More than 14,000 acres of land in north Bartow County belong to the Neel Family. For the past 46 years, the family has leased the land to the Department of Natural Resources. Now the family is ready to sell and hope the state would buy it and preserve this slice of nature. But after a year of negotiations, there’s been no deal.

Image 1 of 13

The Pinelog Wildlife Management Area is now closed after the state and the owners could not come to terms with purchasing the 14,000 acres of land in north Bartow County. (FOX 5)

DNR officials released this statement:

"Since June 2022, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has worked to explore multiple options for retaining the property known as Pine Log Wildlife Management Area (WMA), including extending three written purchase offers. Georgia DNR will continue to explore options that are fiscally responsible, allow public access, and protect the multiple federally and state protected species of concern found on the WMA. However, under recent direction from the landowner, public access to the area will expire on June 1st and the main entrance will be locked beginning June 2nd."

"A lot of people were really hoping the state and the family could get together on this and acquire the property," said Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor.

County officials knew that if a deal could not be reached, and the Neel family decided to sell the land to developers instead, they’d need a plan. In April, the county came up with a Special Zoning District plan.

"It’s planning for the future. This whole property would take 20 to 30 years to develop. We don’t want to hodgepodge this," said Taylor.

The plan does call for 5,000 acres of green space, but some say that’s not enough.

"This area is growing, that’s good in some ways, but on the flip side, I hate to see it because areas like this kind of place are disappearing," said Pearce.