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Grants aid historical preservation
The Dennis and Jan Waters Family Welcome and Education Center is in Allenhurst - photo by Phgoto by Patty Leon


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Preliminary work on the restoration of the Miller Pasture area in Allenhurst began as students from the Savannah College of Art and Design historical preservation class spent their spring semester analyzing and creating architectural reports for a building on the property. Also, the University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry conducted studies on the ecology, biology and environmental aspects of the estate.  
Theodore Vittoria, a New York attorney and trustee of the D.C. Miller Trust called the students’ efforts a first step in the process of fulfilling two missions — the preservation of an estimated 1,500 acres and using the property as an educational center.
In February, the D.C. Miller Trust received a $275,000 contribution from Dennis and Jan Waters that enabled the trust to purchase the existing home on the site. The house, thought to be owned originally by the Sykes and Miller families, is believed to be constructed from old Dunleive timber and is rumored to also have been the Dunleive home.
“SCAD gave us a report, which was quite extensive, with suggestions on how we can restore the old house and a general presentation that will culminate as a monument that will be set up to be used as an educational center and be a replica of the Millers’ house during the time they lived here,” Vittoria said. “We are going to be getting the UGA landscape students to come in and develop a whole landscaping plan in conjunction with the restoration work we are doing.”  
The restoration’s start is made possible by a grant from the Brown Brothers Harriman Trust Company and the Henry H. Shepard Trust.
“The grant that was already approved by them and the amount we should be receiving in the next few weeks is $300,000 in absolute funds and $50,000 in matching funds but the terms of the match are still being worked out,” Vittoria said.
Receiving the funds and beginning the restoration and creation of classroom space within the educational center, he said, was essential in ensuring students from SCAD, UGA College of Environmental Design and the Warnell School of Forestry would return to continue studies of the area.
He pointed out the students take a hands-on approach in regards to the restoration projects, wildlife preservation studies, and environmental and ecological control of the area so it may peacefully co-exist with the urban population nearby.
One of the first small projects they are considering is moving an existing storage shed to another site on the premises so the view from the streets will display a more natural appearance. They also hope to restore a greenhouse currently on the estate.
Vittoria credits the members of the board for the Dennis and Jan Waters Family Welcome and Education Center, the D.C. Miller Trust, and Hinesville Mayor Thomas Ratcliffe, among others, for the diligent work in preserving the estate in perpetuity and taking the steps to protect the wildlife, plants and birds on the property.
“It’s a great act of philanthropy to have the predecessors, the original settlers of the trust, to set this area aside for preservation. It’s a large tract of land and, in that sense, it provides a great ecological and environmental opportunity for children to learn how civil culture can exist and co-exist with the external city environment,” Mayor Ratcliffe said.
Ratcliffe went on to say the Miller Pasture Estate and the Bryant Family Foundation contributions toward a community park in the center of Hinesville, affords the community extraordinary opportunities for families and children to learn about nature in a fairly unrestricted fashion.
“The Bryant Commons is roughly 150 acres of pristine land set in an urban environment and now you have the Miller Estate, that is 1,400 to 1,500 acres literally tied to a portion of the Bryant Commons. That is a large tract of land and in that sense it provides a great opportunity for children to learn about a real forest and they can observe nature in its natural setting,” the mayor said.
The ultimate goal is to allow the public and groups, such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and other organizations, to use the facilities free of charge if the trust is able to do so.
Both Vittoria and Ratcliffe agree the challenge is to maintain the quality of life for the community while preserving the environment and nature for the future generations.
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