Governor Bill Haslam, along with leaders from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation will be officially dedicating the purchase of Virgin Falls State Natural Area this Wednesday at 10 a.m. at Welch’s Point, Bridgestone Firestone Wilderness, Welch Cemetery Road, Sparta.
Through the support of a number of private/public partnerships, the state acquired the land in November 2012. Prior to that, Virgin Falls had been under private ownership, but managed by the state as a natural area for nearly 40 years. Working closely with the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation, the state of Tennessee was able to purchase the 1,551-acre parcel near Sparta through a combination of funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and private donations.
A favorite hiking destination for decades, Virgin Falls features a waterfall that exits a cave at the top of a cliff and then disappears into a second cave at its base. Nature lovers have noted the existence of unique flora and fauna and amateur geologists have explored the composition and structure of its many caves.
Other officials in attendance will be:
Bob Martineau, Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation
Ed Carter, Executive Director, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
Mary Jennings, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Department of Interior
Brock Hill, Deputy Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation
Kathleen Williams, President and CEO, TN Parks & Greenways Foundation
Dr. Chuck Womack, Chairman of the Board, TN Parks & Greenways Foundation