About 68 acres of the Webb Farm along almost a mile of the Hiwassee River near Reliance, Tenn., will be preserved with an easement agreement between the family and the Land Trust for Tennessee.
“This is bottom lands farming country,” said Harold Webb, who with his family owns the 600-acre Webb Farm and legendary Webb Brothers’ General Store and Webb Brothers Float Service. “Our family has wanted to preserve this piece of property as a farm and protect it from subdivision development for 25 years, but we really weren’t in a financial position to just donate it,” Mr. Webb said.
With development already taking place along the Hiwassee River nearby, the trust was able to put together assistance to purchase a conservation easement from Mr. Webb and two siblings with funding from the Tennessee Heritage Conservation Trust Fund and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm and Ranchland Protection Program.
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* The Hiwassee is a State Scenic River.
* The Webb family has owned the property, a working farm in historic Reliance, since the 1880’s.
* The property has been considered “High-priority” habitat for aquatic species according the state wildlife action plan and a property of interest within the Tennessee Heritage Conservation Trust Fund’s Preliminary Assessment of Need
* Reliance is surrounded by the 640,000-acre Cherokee National Forest, the largest tract of public land in Tennessee.
Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association and Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program, administered through the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, provided partial funding, and Mr. Webb said the family received $600,000 to guarantee the Polk County property never would be developed.
The fact that the property borders the Cherokee National Forest and a State Scenic River put it at huge risk of development, said Chris Roberts and Tricia King, project managers with the Land Trust for Tennessee.
The Webb land “is a linchpin property related to conservation in the Hiwassee River watershed,” Ms. King said. The 68 acres includes about 3,586 feet of frontage along state Highway 30 and the Hiwassee River.
The Webbs still own the property and can use it, sell it or leave it to their heirs, but a development restriction in the conservation easement will stay with the land and be monitored by the trust “in perpetuity,” Ms. King said. The Trust currently holds 112 easements totaling 33,199 acres.
Mr. Webb said his ancestors bought the farm in the 1880s. The store was founded in 1936 by brothers Oliver and Harold Webb when they were unable to find work during the Great Depression.
The younger Harold Webb said he promised his father and uncles to keep the property as farmland.
“We think that river bottoms are the some of the best farm lands in the world, and it’s inappropriate to be put subdivisions and shopping centers in flood plains and covering over our best farmlands.”
Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...