published Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Tennessee acquires Rhea, Bledsoe properties that add to Cumberland State Park

Cumberland State Park
Cumberland State Park
Photo by Angela Lewis /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE — State officials today announced the purchase of 1,050 acres in Rhea and Bledsoe counties to add to the state’s Justin P. Wilson Cumberland State Park.

The acquisition of the Soak Creek and Wendell Wilson tracts on Brady Mountain connects existing Tennessee parks lands and state natural areas along a proposed 300-mile route.

The property, the state’s Department of Environment and Conservation says in a news release, will protect seven miles of “high quality streams” and provides “a lush forest landscape for the construction of ten new miles of the Cumberland Trail.”

The tract joins Stinging Fork Falls State Natural Area, Piney Falls State Natural Area and Piney River Resource Management Area, all under the management of the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park and the State Scenic Trail.

“These acquisitions are a huge asset for the Cumberland Trail, connecting existing lands and providing a much-needed extension to the trail,” Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill said.

The purchase of the Soak Creek property was preceded by a land sale between Colorado-based Resource Land Holdings Inc. and the Land Trust for Tennessee, a nonprofit organization based in Nashville.

Additional funds were provided by the Conservation Fund and the Cumberland Trail Conference. Funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the State Land Acquisition Fund and the Barbara J. Mapp Foundation supported the purchase.

Dollar amounts were not immediately available.

The department calls the acquisition of the Wendell Wilson Tract “a critical link” on the crest of Brady Mountain in Cumberland County, overlooking the Grassy Cove Karst National Natural landmark.

The Wendell Wilson family, descendants of the pioneering families in the region, conveyed a 152-acre tract that serves as the backdrop for the Grassy Cove basin and reaches to the highest elevation in the region. The acquisition bridges a continuous segment of the Cumberland Trail corridor, starting at nearby Black Mountain.

The Cumberland Trail, conceived in 1965, has 190 miles of open hiking trails and 40 trailhead parking areas from Cumberland Gap National Historic Park to Signal Point, overlooking the Tennessee River near Chattanooga.

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