Monday, October 22, 2007

Grant to preserve wilderness land near Caney Fork

Staff Writer, The Tennessean, Oct. 22, 2007

Another piece of the wilderness that lies in a corridor between Fall Creek Falls State Park and Scotts Gulf has been protected.

"The rugged, spectacular scenery rivals scenery anywhere in the world," said Kathleen Williams, executive director of the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation, one of the groups that worked to secure the funding.

Agencies and nonprofits today have conserved about 53,000 acres, including a 1,500-acre tract the Middle Tennessee Council of the Boy Scouts recently acquired and Virgin Falls, where the waters appear from an underground cave before tumbling off a bluff. They disappear into another opening at the base of the falls. (To read full article....Grants to Preserve Wilderness)

My Commentary
Many people visit the Great Smoky Mountains, but in Middle Tennessee there is a natural treasure every bit as beautiful. It is unspoiled by the commercial tourist industry that borders the Smokies. Small sleepy towns and well tending farms dot the country side. The mountains of the Cumberland plateau has beautiful scenery, hiking trails, trout fishing streams, babbling brooks, caves, massive stone formations, and hundreds of waterfalls including Fall Creek Falls, the highest waterfall east of the Rockies.

The land has some of the greatest diversity of plants and wildlife species in America. The land is beautiful to explore any time of the year. Taking a Spring hike you may find dozens of variety of wildflowers in bloom. And, if you visit the same trail a week later, some of those flowers will no longer be blooming, but new varieties will have bloomed out. For two months, the same trail can be a different hike each time. In the fall the Cumberlands can take your breath away as you gaze at a hill side and see the ribbons of fall colours. I find that a day trip to the Cumberland restores my soul and wipes away a months worth of daily stress.

This beautiful land is being threatened, however, by the growing population and development and by clear-cutting of timber. An organization that is taking the lead in preserving this treasure is The Tennessee Parks and Greenway Foundation. If it was not for this organization, many of the most beautiful sites in Tennessee would be lost. One reason this organization can be successful when state government cannot, is because they can act faster than the state government to save endangered sites. The wheels of government turn slow. By the time annual budgets are approve, legislation is passed, and studies are done, a threatened site is lost. TPGF can purchase the site and hold it until a state agency can purchase it. Also, TPGF has fewer bureaucratic processes to go through, so they can purchase sites at less cost than if purchased by the state, and since they are not in business to make a profit they can sell the property at a saving to the state of Tennessee.

TPGF operates on a shoe-string budget with low overhead and almost all the money donated to the foundation goes into purchasing endangered sites that have a natural feature worth preserving such as a waterfall or are home to an endangered species. In addition to purchasing property, TPGF saves the land by accepting donation of "construction easements" on property which limits future developments. In addition to the land that eventually goes into state hands in the form of state parks or wilderness areas, many farms will remain as farms or open space due to the owners voluntarily giving away their development rights. TPGF educates property owners on how they can bequest the beauty of the Cumberlands to future generations by placing these development restrictions on their property.

I am glad to see the natural beauty of the Cumberlands being preserved. Piece by piece, much of this beautiful mountain land is being saved. Kathleen Williams, Executive Director of The Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation is my sister. I am proud of her and the noble work she is doing. If you love the beauty of the Cumberlands or support the work of those that are saving our natural heritage you may wish to make a contribution to support this worth while organization.

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