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New Project Seeks Public's Help To Identify, Preserve Tennessee’s Best Views; Nominations Can Be Made Via Smartphone

Tuesday, August 9, 2022
Welch Point, Bridgestone Firestone Centennial Wilderness WMA, White County
Welch Point, Bridgestone Firestone Centennial Wilderness WMA, White County
- photo by Chuck Sutherland

Scenic Tennessee is inviting the public to take part in Tennessee Vistas (tnvistas.org), a community-sourced initiative to identify, map and help ensure the future of Tennessee’s most beloved and significant scenic views. 

Individuals, organizations and agencies are encouraged to nominate the views they consider essential to the character, history, economy, brand or overall quality of life in their region. Following community review, the top-ranked vistas will become part of a “Tennessee Scenic Viewshed Register" that organizers hope will be used in areas from tourism and promotion to education and long-range planning.

(A defined viewshed is everything visible when looking in one direction from a fixed viewing point.)

“Tennessee is growing by half a million new residents every ten years,” said Marge Davis, president of Scenic Tennessee and a board member of Scenic America. "We’re lucky to have such a strong economy, but we need to make sure we don’t lose the scenic qualities that help draw people here in the first place. This database can serve as a resource for local planning boards and other land-use decision-makers. If they choose to make use of it—for instance, to site a new park, or to reduce visual impacts when development is unavoidable—Scenic Tennessee and its partners can share expertise and resources. This project gives Tennesseans a say in what our landscapes look like 20, 30 or even 100 years from now.”

“Tennessee’s natural beauty sets our state apart and is why millions of visitors from around the globe keep coming back year after year,” added Commissioner Mark Ezell, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. “We applaud Scenic Tennessee’s work in helping identify and preserve these landmarks for generations to come.” 

Modeled after a similar initiative developed for Scenic Virginia by landscape architects at Virginia Tech, Tennessee’s viewshed inventory is now underway in four counties in the Upper Cumberlands—Jackson, Overton, Putnam and White, home to innumerable bluffs, gorges, overlooks and waterfalls. 

“Some of the most spectacular views in Tennessee are located in these four counties,” said Amy New, president and CEO of the Highlands Economic Partnership and the Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce. “They are absolutely vital to the local economy. Tennessee Vistas will give others a taste of what we have here.”

Following the pilot, the project will expand to other parts of the state until all 95 counties have been inventoried.

Nominators will go to www.tnvistas.org to submit up to three photos per view, along with location and other information. Nominated viewscapes may be rural or urban, natural or man-made, already protected (for instance, within a state park) or prone to development. Expansive views are preferred, though narrower/closer views may be submitted. The only "rule" is that the photographer must be on public property accessible by publicly maintained roads or trails. 

The pilot review will take place Oct. 4 in the main conference room of the Upper Cumberland Development District's offices in Cookeville. (There will be an option for online ranking as well.) Participants will use a simple form to score views not only for scenic quality but for level of public engagement or concern. The top-ranked views, along with narrative descriptions and other assets, will appear as searchable points on an interactive map created for Scenic Tennessee under contract with STS-GIS, the geographic information systems section of the state’s Strategic Technology Solutions division.

The partnership between STS-GIS and Scenic Tennessee is “unique,” said Paul Dudley, STS-GIS location intelligence analyst. While his group primarily assists other state agencies, "a dataset of Tennessee viewsheds will be a valuable asset to citizens, state agencies, tourism, developers and planning organizations across the state.”

Scenic Tennessee in turn benefits from STS-GIS’ arsenal of geospatial intelligence technology, said Ms. Davis. This includes the ability to build story maps, an increasingly popular product in which images, video, narration, simulations, multiple map layers and other media may be combined to tell a story or explore a theme. Ms. Davis said her group is already planning an annual “Tennessee Top 10 Views” story map once the register is complete. The map may also incorporate data layers from other agencies and programs, such as TDOT’s scenic byways program and TVA’s database of scenic overlooks.

Scenic Tennessee is launching Tennessee Vistas in partnership with its parent organization Scenic America, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit that focuses on scenic conservation issues on the national level while supporting states and communities with local concerns. In supporting Scenic Tennessee’s work in developing this database, Scenic America hopes to inspire other states and regions to take similar steps to identify and preserve their own scenic views, said the group's president, Mark Falzone.

A report on the pilot project will be presented Oct. 21 during Scenic America’s 2022 Scenic Symposium in Nashville. Scenic Tennessee is co-host of the event, which is open to the public. For more information, visit www.scenic.org/resources/conferences/2022-symposium. 

Details of Tennessee Vistas - Upper Cumberlands Pilot:

Nominations accepted through Oct. 3 at www.tnvistas.org 
Counties included: Jackson, Overton, Putnam, White (views may extend into adjacent counties)

Community review session: 
Oct. 4 from 1-3 p.m. central time   
Upper Cumberland Development District, 1104 England Dr., Cookeville
Details regarding online participation will be available later

For more information: (615) 294-2651; margedavis@scenictennessee.org.


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