Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cummins Falls Saved. Thank You Kathleen.

I was delighted this morning to see in the Tennessean a picture of the falls and the news that Cummins Falls had been purchased by the State. Ann Paine writes that on Monday the Tennessee Building Commission authorized acquisition of the 211-acre tract which contains the falls.

Cummins Falls is a 75-foot cascade with a large swimming hole at the bottom. I had the pleasure of going on a hike to Cummins Falls this spring with my sister Kathleen, brother Don, and their spouses and several of my nieces and nephews and my daughter Rachel. We had a wonderful time. We took a strenuous hike up stream to the falls where we had a picnic on rocks at the edge of the swimming hole. It was a warm day, but the water was bone-chilling cold. I swam at the foot of falls but not for long.

The falls are breath-takingly beautiful and the surrounding woods are also beautiful with an abundance of diverse flowers and variety of trees. Travel and Leisure has listed Cummins Falls as one of the top ten swimming holes in America. The falls are in Jackson County north of Putnam County near Cookeville and  is the largest waterfall in private hands in the state. The volume of water makes it the eighth-largest waterfall in Tennesee.

Kathleen Williams
My sister Kathleen Williams gets the credit for this happening.  She is Director of the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation. In a nutshell, this is how she is able to save sites like Cummins Falls: TPGF ties up the land with an option to purchase. This takes money. TPGF seeks contributions for land acquistion. After getting an option on the land,  they then try to get the state to purchase it. They only go after highly prized sites that they know the state may be interested in. If the state does not purchase it in a timely manner, then TPGF must raise the money to complete the purchase and then hope the state does purchase it at a later time.  The state moves slow and is less agile than the non-profit TPGF.  Many sites would be lost to developers or subdivided in such a way that the integrity of the site would be destroyed it not for TPGF.

The purchase price of Cummins falls and the surrounding acreage was $1.2 million dollars. I know Kathleen has had sleepless nights worrying about how to raise the money. She has worked tirelessly to raise money and get pledges in order to complete the sale should she have to do so. Making this happen was a major undertaking. This Tennessee treasure is now secure for future generations. In the past, it could only be visited by the few who  knew about it and were daring enough or hardy enough to get to it. Now, many can enjoy it.

Knowing Kathleen, she will celebrate and sleep better tonight knowing this project has reached a successful conclusion and the weight is lifted off of her shoulders. Knowing Kathleen, she is already lusting after the next Tennessee treasure to save.

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