State parks honor females

Q: Who are the namesakes of Victoria Bryant State Park and Laura S. Walker State Park?

A: While these parks are located on opposite ends of Georgia, both Victoria Bryant and Laura S. Walker state parks were named in honor of ladies who were special to their families and their local community.

In the northeast Georgia community of Royston, the 502-acre Victoria Bryant State Park is dedicated in memory of a mother by her son who never had a chance to know her. In 1953, Franklin County native Paul E. Bryant dedicated the 45 acres of land he had obtained as a living memorial to his mother, Victoria Osborn Bryant, who was born in 1863 and died in 1901. He was her third son.

“Uncle Paul was an energetic, generous gentleman who envisioned the creation for this park for his fellow Georgians to enjoy recreation and relaxation,” said Ann Bryant, wife of Paul Bryant’s nephew, Burton Bryant. “To that end, he persuaded the state of Georgia to accept his donation of the property, and our park became a reality in 1953. Uncle Paul’s only request was that the park be named Victoria Bryant State Park, to honor the memory of his mother, who died when he was an infant.”

The park was dedicated on April 26, 1953. From 1957 to 1962, Paul Bryant donated more land and sold additional acreage to the state for the park. He died in 1977. Today, the state park offers archery, hiking, golfing, biking and fishing.

Nestled on the northern edge of the Okefenokee Swamp in southeast Georgia, Laura S. Walker State Park is the first state park in Georgia to be named after a woman. Born in Milledgeville in 1861, Walker moved to Waycross in 1886, where she was dedicated to her community and the wildlife that surrounded it.

Walker, a teacher and writer who was the wife of former Waycross Mayor J. L. Walker, set in place several historical movements that helped shaped Waycross.

Walker had an interest in land conservation and forestry activities, as well as women’s rights, wildlife conservation and civil rights, according to Georgia State Parks division. Many agricultural developments and historical monuments erected in the area were because of her endeavors.

From its establishment in 1937 until 1941, Laura S. Walker State Park was recognized as a national park, after which it became the 13th state park in Georgia.

The 626-acre Waycross park sits offers visitors dozens of activities, including a beach and camping sites. Walker died in 1955 after battling a long illness.

“She would be very proud of the park,” said David Jordan, park manager. “She was a strong supporter of forestry.”