The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), in partnership with The Conservation Fund, The Land Trust for Tennessee and the Open Space Institute (OSI), on Wednesday announced the addition of 1,058 acres to South Cumberland State Park in Marion County. The acquisition connects more than 7,000 acres of protected public land, conserves forestland and cove habitat from future development, and protects scenic views on the Fiery Gizzard trail.
“TDEC takes land preservation seriously and prides itself on providing top-quality outdoor recreation experiences for state park visitors,” said TDEC Deputy Commissioner of Parks and Conservation Brock Hill. “Additions to our state parks system benefit all Tennesseans through the protection of our air, water and habitat, and create more opportunities to enjoy the beautiful spaces we call home.”
The newly-acquired land is adjacent to the Fiery Gizzard trail, which has been ranked as one of the top 25 backpacking trails in the United States by Backpacker Magazine. Approximately 600,000 visitors enjoy South Cumberland State Park annually, with many attracted to the 12-mile Fiery Gizzard Trail. However many large sections of the trail and surrounding bluffs remain in private ownership. TDEC plans to relocate a nearby portion of the trail that is on private land to the newly acquired land.
“It is an honor to participate in another conservation project that will help to protect additional land in the Fiery Gizzard area – an area cherished by outdoor enthusiasts and hikers,” said Ralph Knoll, Tennessee representative with The Conservation Fund.
The Conservation Fund, with transactional support from The Land Trust for Tennessee, purchased the 1,058 acres from landowners Dr. George and Ruby Dixson in late 2016. The Tennessee Heritage Conservation Trust Fund and OSI’s South Cumberland Land Protection Fund provided critical grant funding to the effort, which enabled the State of Tennessee to acquire the land in April 2017. The conservation win advances long-term conservation goals identified in the Tennessee State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP, 2015), Cumberland Voices: A Conservation Vision for the South Cumberland Region (2011), and the THRIVE 2055 Natural Treasures initiative.
“The successful conservation of this land for the Fiery Gizzard Trail is a resounding win for outdoor lovers and wildlife alike,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s executive vice president. “This is an enduring place that truly merits permanent protection, given its critical role in connecting thousands of acres of protected land and facilitating continuing public use of the Fiery Gizzard trail. We congratulate The Conservation Fund and The Land Trust for Tennessee on this achievement.”
The acquisition also builds upon the State’s recent efforts to conserve land in the region. In March 2017, South Cumberland State Park celebrated the dedication of Denny Cove, a 685-acre climbing destination just a quarter mile from the newly acquired 1,058 acres. In 2010, The Conservation Fund, The Land Trust for Tennessee and the State of Tennessee partnered to purchase 6,182 acres on the Fiery Gizzard from a private timber company. At that time, 2,900 acres went into public ownership as part of South Cumberland State Park, and 3,282 went into private ownership with a conservation easement held by The Land Trust for Tennessee.
“The Land Trust for Tennessee is privileged to work with private and public partners to continue the conservation success in the South Cumberland region,” said Liz McLaurin, president and CEO of The Land Trust for Tennessee.
For more information about South Cumberland State Park, visit http://tnstateparks.com/parks/about/south-cumberland.