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Mainsping Director Sharon Taylor Retires, New Director Starts Work

Fred Alexander
Mainspring founding director Paul Carlson, retiring director Sharon Fouts Taylor, artist Elizabeth Ellison and Connie Haire, chair of Mainspring’s board of directors. Taylor received this original painting of Ellison’s as her retirement gift. ";s:

Last week, Mainspring Conservation Trust in Franklin was packed with locals and members to congratulate director Sharon Taylor on her retirement. 

“I’m overwhelmed at the number of people that have come out to congratulate me,” says Taylor. 

When Taylor started at the organization in 2001 with founder Paul Carlson, the mission was to help conserve the land known as the Needmore Tract along the Little Tennessee River. 

Carlson explained that when he hired Taylor, at what was then the Little Tennessee Land Trust, the trust had conserved about 80 acres. Taylor explains how she got involved to the crowd: 


“We were on the Needmore Tract - and this was before the Needmore Tract was conserved. We were sitting under a ‘No Trespassing’ sign and Paul said, “Come help me save the Needmore.” So I left the University of Georgia and came to help him save the Needmore.”

Now 19 years later, the trust has conserved over 28,000 acres of land and reaches spans across the 6 westernmost counties as well as north Georgia. This includes the 5,000-acreNeedmore Game Lands now owned by the state. 

This work is not without controversy. One main example is Mainspring’s work on the Nikwasi Mound. The trust is a part of the Nikwasi Initiative, which now took ownership of the historic mound from the town of Franklin in August 2019. 

The Nikwasi Initiative will manage a cultural corridor from Rabun County to Cherokee. The Nikwasi Mound will be a part of the plan. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, who are also part of the Nikwasi Initative, are currently finalizing plans for a museum dedicated to the mound at the adjacent property which they purchased in 2018. 

The cultural corridor is just one project that incoming director Jordan Smith will have a hand in. He’s looking forward to stewarding the organization’s impact on its 1.8 million acre coverage area. 

“Every project that we have has a cultural component, so it’s unique to work for an organization that works for touches so many parts of our unique area,” says Smith.  

Smith has worked for Mainspring for almost 4 years as the land conservation director. His first day on the job was March 1.