State officials say they’ve addressed concerns and issues that may have played a role in a child’s drowning this spring, and they’re ready to reopen the scenic waterfall swimming hole along the Blackburn Fork River in Jackson County.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation issued a press release Tuesday outlining changes to safety policies at Cummins Falls State Park, where earlier this year a 2-year-old boy was swept away to his death during a June 8 flash flood.

TDEC reports that a weather scanning station has been established and will enable rangers to “monitor watershed-specific radar during park operating hours.”

“Park staff will evacuate the gorge when radar indicates rain anywhere in the watershed, not just the park itself,” Bryson said. “This is the most conservative and appropriate protocol at this time.”

River monitoring gauges are also now in place upstream from the falls. They will measure water levels and send electronic communication alerts to park officials and regional rescue teams in the event that waters rapidly rise, according to TDEC’s Aug. 13 news release, which is posted below:

TDEC Implements Comprehensive Safety Improvement Strategy at Cummins Falls State Park

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has implemented a comprehensive safety improvement strategy at Cummins Falls State Park and will reopen the falls and gorge on Aug. 14 if weather conditions permit.

The additions will include new policies for minors, additional signage, additional safety-related information on the Cummins Falls State Park webpage, a safety education video for public viewing at the park, real-time weather monitoring, water monitoring, refuge areas in case of an evacuation and increased personnel.

“We are glad to be in a position to reopen Cummins Falls with added enhanced safety tools and procedures that we are putting into place,” TDEC Deputy Commissioner Jim Bryson said. “This area is an extremely rugged area in a dynamic watershed that will never be completely risk free, and the best way to enhance safety is to take a comprehensive approach, and in this case that means new policies, educational tools and wet-weather protocols for our visitors.”

Three new policies are being added regarding access to the gorge and falls:

  • Each child 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Each child 12 and under must have a life jacket.
  • Each child 12 and under must wear the life jacket when swimming.

TDEC also encourages children ages five and under to not enter the falls and gorge areas.

Signage at the trailhead and in the gorge area in English and Spanish will warn of the dangers of flash flooding and provide instructions in the event of a flood. The Cummins Falls State Park webpage will include an informative pop-up that will alert prospective visitors to the potential dangers and strenuous nature of the falls and the hike into the falls. A temporary visitor center has been erected over the trail leading to the falls. It is equipped with two 70-inch monitors playing a safety video on loop as visitors prepare to enter the trail.

A weather monitoring station at the park now serves as the central hub for weather monitoring efforts. Located adjacent to the trailhead, park staff will monitor watershed-specific radar during park operating hours.

“Park staff will evacuate the gorge when radar indicates rain anywhere in the watershed, not just the park itself,” Bryson said. “This is the most conservative and appropriate protocol at this time.”

In coordination with Tennessee Tech University, three river monitoring gauges have been installed on tributaries upstream from the falls to measure water levels. These gauges will send texts and email alerts to all Cummins Falls park staff when water levels rise significantly. The alerts will also be sent to two local 911 emergency response centers.

The monitoring gauges have been installed and TDEC has been reviewing the data to better understand the dynamics of the watershed. The system will become predictive over time, but more data is needed.

“At this time, we are not comfortable with the monitoring data itself being the first mechanism to warn visitors of an influx of water into the gorge,” Bryson said. “We will use the data we are collecting as a secondary layer of safety until the system becomes more predictive.”

If the park is evacuated, three refuge areas located above all known flood levels have been cleared of brush and clearly marked. These areas provide easy access to high ground where visitors can seek refuge until they are evacuated or the water recedes.

The park is adding at least two seasonal employees to assist with managing crowds at the park and assist with weather monitoring, visitor education and visitor safety.

“I am pleased with the comprehensive approach and due diligence TDEC has put in to make the park safer for our citizens,” State Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville, said. “Cummins Falls is a world-class recreational destination, but safety will continue to be top priority.”

“We asked TDEC to step up its game in terms of safety at Cummins Falls, and they have delivered,” State Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, said. “I encourage anyone in my district who visits Cummins Falls to please review all safety information provided and take guidance from park rangers very seriously.”

“TDEC has taken several additional measures to enhance safety at Cummins Falls,” State Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, said. “Cummins Falls is a beautiful place, but people should continue to put safety first when they visit.”

162 reasons to swing through TN’s ‘Golf Capital’

Beware: Bogeyman-haunted traps lurk fore-biddingly about the greens in Cumberland County. But really that just makes for even more good reasons link up with friends or family and set a course toward the “Golf Capital of Tennessee” as the summer days chip away into fall.

Cumberland County didn’t earn that distinctive nickname for nothing. The nine challenging courses — that’s a total of 162 holes — will test your metal (and wood) against some of the finest, not-so-faraway fairways the Volunteer State has to offer.

Magnificent panoramic views are par for the course in Cumberland County. The spectacular 14th hole at Druid Hills, where on a clear day you can see 40 miles, is but one extraordinary example.

Nestled alluringly amidst the Cumberland Plateau’s lovely scramble of hills, cliffs, crags, forests, valleys and water hazards, Crossville lies about 110 miles east of Nashville. The county seat of Cumberland County, it is just 70 miles west of Knoxville, and less than an hour’s drive from Cookeville.

“Being named the ‘Golf Capital of Tennessee’ was not a case of local officials looking for a catchy moniker,” the Crossville Chamber of Commerce website assures visitors. More than half a million rounds of golf are played in Cumberland County each year, and the number keeps driving higher all the time.

Jeff Houston, director of golf at Fairfield Glade, estimates that somewhere between 175,000 to 190,000 rounds are teed up yearly at the popular retirement-and-resort hamlet 20 miles northeast of Crossville.

Cumberland County lays claim to its title due to the number of courses and their indisputable beauty — combined with the “amount of play during the season,” said Houston. There are five courses at Fairfield Glade alone, and two more in the county, plus another two within Crossville’s city limits, he said.

Many golf-enthusiasts from Middle Tennessee and beyond make yearly pilgrimages to Cumberland County. Goodlettsville’s Lisa Moore has been making an annual trek with three of her golfing girlfriends since 1995.

“We like going to Crossville because it’s close and convenient, and it’s just beautiful up there,” she said. “You kind of get the feeling you’re going home or to a favorite place where you can relax and unwind, and the people who work at the courses you see year after year and are kind of like old friends. They’re very nice and very accommodating.”

Below is a list of area golf destinations and a little background about what makes each course special. For more details about golf in Crossville, call 1-877-GOLF-TN1 or go online to: golfcapitaltenn.com.

Hole 13’s green at Dorchester fits neatly into a majestic hardwood-pine forest.

Dorchester Golf Club at Fairfield Glade
576 Westchester Drive, Crossville
Phone: (931) 484-3709
Website: https://fairfieldglade.net/fairfield-amenities/ (click on golf)

  • Head Pro: Jack Sixkiller, 22 years
  • Year Opened: 1977
  • Yardage from White Tees: 5,817
  • Unique/ Outstanding Feature: “By today’s standards the course is not long, but the bentgrass greens, narrow tree-lined fairways, strategically placed bunkers and water on six of the 18 golf holes makes Dorchester Golf Club a challenge for even the skilled golfer.” – Jeff Houston, Fairfield Glade golf director for 28 years.

Signature Hole: A par three that plays 30 yards downhill as it drops from tee to pin, lucky Hole 13‘s green is cut out of forest to give a dramatic effect. A creek that borders the rear of the green complex adds further intrigue.

Druid Hills Golf Club at Fairfield Glade
435 Lakeview Drive, Crossville
Phone: (931) 484-3711
Website: https://fairfieldglade.net/fairfield-amenities/ (click on golf)

  • Head Pro: Rag Jones, 17 years
  • Year Opened: 1970
  • Yardage White Tees: 5,827 yards
  • Unique/ Outstanding Feature: Located on the highest point in Fairfield Glade, Druid Hills provides several 360-degree scenic views of the surrounding mountains.

Signature Hole: A spectacular east-facing vista (where on a clear day you can see 40 miles) added to a beckoning green guarded by a natural rock waterfall makes Hole 14 an unforgettable par 5.

Heatherhurst Golf Club: The Brae Course at Fairfield Glade
Phone: 421 Stonehenge Drive, Crossville
(931) 484-3799
Website: https://fairfieldglade.net/fairfield-amenities/ (click on golf)

Lake Dartmoor’s smooth waters can be rough on wayward approach shots at The Brae’s 10th hole.

  • Head Pro: Jeremy Jones, 14 years
  • Year Opened: Heatherhurst opened in stages. The Brae Course debuted the Mountain Nine in 1988 and the Creek Nine in 1991. The opening date of the Brae Course and Crag Course as a 36-hole facility was May 27, 2000.
  • Yardage from White Tees: 5,980
  • Unique/ Outstanding Feature: On the front nine, Heatherhurst Brae features a double dogleg par 5 said to be one of the toughest in Tennessee, and the back nine offers three par 3s, three par 4s and three par 5s with undulating fairways and encroaching bunkers.

Signature Hole: Heatherhurst Brae’s Hole 10 is a long par 5 that plays downhill all the way to the green, and Lake Dartmoor will scuttle errant approach shots to the right and rear.

Don’t let the The Crag’s 14th hole beauty distract you because a precision shot is required on the drive.

Heatherhurst Golf Club: The Crag Course at Fairfield Glade
421 Stonehenge Drive, Crossville
(931) 484-3799
Website: fhttps://fairfieldglade.net/fairfield-amenities/ (click on golf)

  • Head Pro: Jeremy Jones, 14 years
  • Year Opened: Heatherhurst opened in stages. The Crag Course debuted the Pine Nine in 1989 and the New Nine in 2000.
  • Yardage from White Tees: 5,564
  • Unique/ Outstanding Feature: Heatherhurst Crag is player-friendly with tee locations ranging from the most forward tee at 3,600 to the blue tees at 6,200. Bentgrass tees and greens, wide fairways make it great for short hitters and strategically placed bunkers add to the fun.

Signature Hole: If the view doesn’t get you the Hole 17 tee shot will: a short par 4 that offers a dramatic first shot that plays downhill onto a narrow fairway. With Dogwood Branch bordering the left of the fairway and a huge bank and out of bounds guarding the right, a precise drive is required.

Stonehenge’s 14th hole is encircled with score-imperiling splendor.

Stonehenge Golf Course at Fairfield Glade
222 Fairfield Boulevard, Crossville
Phone: (931) 484-3731
Website: https://fairfieldglade.net/fairfield-amenities/ (click on golf)

  • Head Pro: Corey Wade, 10 years
  • Year Opened: 1985
  • Yardage from White Tees: 6,202
  • Unique/ Outstanding Feature: Stonehenge is proud to feature bentgrass tees, fairways and greens. Natural rock outcroppings come into play on several holes, with a 15-foot layered stone retaining wall running along the left and rear of the downhill par 3 14th hole.

Signature Hole: A dramatic drop from the tee to the green makes Hole 14 a must-see par 3. Lake Dartmoor awaits in the back for a breath-taking view.

Lake Tansi Golf Course
2476 Dunbar Road, Crossville
931-788-3301
Website: www.laketansigolf.com

  • Head Pro: Gavin Darbyshire, 1 year

    Lake Tansi’s 18th hole is a strong finisher.

  • Year Opened: 1958
  • Yardage from White Tees: 6,205
  • Unique/ Outstanding Feature: Exceptionally pleasant course for a variety of golfers. It provides a very good challenge for better players from the back tees (6,701 yards) and is still very enjoyable and manageable for mid to high handicap golfers from more forward tees.

Signature Hole: The best is saved for last at Lake Tansi. Hole 18 is a par 5 playing slightly uphill and measuring 592 yards from the back tee. The generous fairway bends from right to left along a hillside as it wraps around Lake Hiawatha. The elevated green, which also slopes toward the lake, presents a challenging finishing target.

Bear Trace at Cumberland Mountain
407 Wild Plum Lane, Crossville
Phone: (931) 707-1640
Website: tnstateparks.com/golf/course/bear-trace-at-cumberland-mountain

  • Head Pro: Kelvin Burgin, 6 years
  • Year Opened: 1998
  • Yardage from White Tees: 5,916
  • Unique/ Outstanding Feature: “The golf course has no homes on it. It’s just you and nature,” says Burgin.

Signature Hole: 7.

Cumberland Cove in Monterey
Owner Sam Hicks
16941 Highway 70 N., Monterey
931-839-3313
Website: facebook.com/cumberlandcove/

River Run Golf Club
1701 Tennessee Ave., Crossville
931-456-4060
Website: facebook.com/RiverRunGolfClub/

Features of the River Run course include its signature Par 3 island green, and it has the longest and shortest holes in Cumberland County.

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, August 2, 2019:

Link: https://www.tn.gov/twra/news/2019/8/2/twra-leasing-fields-for-2019-dove-season.html

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is seeking fields to lease for the upcoming 2019 dove season. The first segment of dove season opens at noon on Sunday, Sept. 1.

Mourning doves are a popular game bird and one of the most widely distributed and abundant birds in North America. More mourning doves are harvested than all other migratory bird species combined in 39 of the continental states. In Tennessee, an estimated 19,000 hunters harvested approximately 334,000 mourning doves last year.

Landowners can earn up to $3,600 for providing a dove field for public hunting. These fields must be available for a minimum of three priority hunt dates in September.

TWRA began its leased dove field program in the late 1980s and the program has been very successful in providing quality hunting opportunities for hunters. In addition to leased fields, many public dove fields are provided on wildlife management areas in each TWRA region. The TWRA website will have specific information about WMAs and leased dove fields in each region beginning Aug. 15.

The standard fall leased field is a harvested grain field to which TWRA leases the hunting rights for three priority dates. The hunting access rate paid to landowners for fall leased fields may be up to $75 per acre for a maximum of 40 acres. Fields that are top sown with wheat are eligible for an additional $15 per acre. Interested landowners must sign up their fields in August.

Anyone interested in leasing a dove field to TWRA should contact their TWRA regional office. The TWRA has four regional offices across the state that interested landowners can contact: Region I (West Tennessee) 731-423-5725 or toll free 800-372-3928; Region II (Middle Tennessee) 615-781-6622 or toll free 800-624-7406; Region III (Upper Cumberland) 931-484-9571 or toll free 833-402-4698; Region IV (East Tennessee) 423-587-7037 or 800-332-0900.

Use-permit and mandatory safety course under consideration for entry into gorge area after Sunday tragedy

Trails in and out of the Cummins Falls river-gorge area in Jackson County have been closed as a result of a fatal weekend flash flood that took the life of a 2-year-old boy.

Jim Bryson, deputy director of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, issued a memo Wednesday affirming that access to the Blackburn Fork River at Cummins Falls State Park will remain blocked “until we can evaluate the incident and review and implement additional safety protocols.”

The memo was addressed to David W. Salyers, commissioner of TDEC, which is the agency that oversees state parks and natural areas in Tennessee.

“At a minimum, the falls and gorge area will remain closed until the department conducts a full assessment of the circumstances and considers and implements additional protocols to address rain events in the watershed area,” Bryson wrote.

Trails around the state park in the forest above the river gorge are still open.

On Sunday, more than 60 people had to be aided by regional rescue personnel after becoming trapped in the rugged river gorge below Cummins Falls as a result of rising waters and increasingly rapid currents. Fourteen people required “swiftwater or rope evacuation” in order to reach safety.

The child who died, Steven Pierce of Eddyville, Ky., was reportedly separated from his family in treacherous currents and subsequently drowned. His body was located Monday morning “a couple hundred yards” downstream from the falls, a state parks official said.

The sudden stream surge — which arose in just a couple minutes — resulted from thunderstorms dumping rain upstream in the watershed, not over the state park itself, according to state park officials.

Four Tennessee state lawmakers who represent the surrounding region issued a sternly worded letter to Bryson on Tuesday, asking why additional safety measures promised in the past haven’t yet been implemented at the park, which has been the site of fatalities resulting from sudden water-rises before.

“In 2017, your department announced plans to install a warning system at Cummins Falls State Park to better monitor the gorge’s rising water levels,” stated the letter, written by Republican Sen. Paul Bailey of Sparta, House GOP Caucus Chairman Cameron Sexton of Crossville, Republican Rep. Ryan Williams of Cookeville and Democratic Rep. John Mark Windle of Livingston. “It is now June 2019, another life has been lost and the warning system has still not been installed.”

They said assurances were made following the last fatality that “a system would be implemented in an effort to prevent further deaths.”

“Why has this warning system not been installed at Cummins Falls State Park? It is past time to make installing a warning system a priority,” they wrote. “We cannot continue losing precious lives at one of Tennessee’s most visited state parks. We ask for your immediate attention to this matter and prompt installation of a warning system before more lives are lost.”

Bryson’s memo, sent a day after receiving the correspondence from the legislators, outlines a series of “ongoing actions” to improve safety in the gorge. He said an “After Action Report” will examine park polices and investigate park staff’s actions “before, during and after the incident.”

Bryson said TDEC is in communication with the National Weather Service to better monitor the watershed above Cummins Falls and develop “a new protocol for warning of potentially dangerous situations.”

Also, water-level measuring devices will be placed upstream to alert park staff to surge hazards, he said.

“An emergency procurement authorization has been secured to purchase and install a water flow monitoring system as an early warning system,” wrote Bryson, who was just last month appointed to the TDEC position in which he now serves. “It will be installed with all possible speed.”

In the future, the Cummins Falls State Park may establish “a permit requirement that will help us manage the visitation and ensure visitors have attended the safety program before going down into the gorge.”

Cummins Falls park staff, he added, “will be set up to have monitors for regular weather updates and the ability to receive notification from the flow meters that we are working with (Tennessee Tech University) to implement.”

Press Release from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, June 13, 2019:

TVA must move material from coal ash ponds to a lined landfill or recycle it

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III today announced a settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) of a lawsuit against TVA and the management of coal combustion residuals at its Gallatin plant.

“We are pleased to bring this matter to a positive conclusion,” said David Salyers, commissioner of TDEC. “This settlement will resolve environmental issues at the Gallatin Fossil Plant and we look forward to continuing our work with TVA and non-governmental organizations to further protect our environment and our citizens.”

“We are very pleased with the diligence and hard work from all parties involved in reaching this compromise and settling the matters in dispute,” said Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III.

The settlement requires TVA to remove approximately 12 million cubic yards of coal combustion residuals (CCR) from its active coal ash ponds at the Gallatin Fossil Plant, as well as remediate the area, in accordance with Tennessee law. Under the agreement, TVA may either place the excavated material in a lined, permitted landfill or recycle the material for beneficial reuse in concrete or other construction materials.

The settlement announced today also requires TVA to complete a final environmental assessment report to identify the extent of soil, surface water and groundwater contamination at the facility.

“This agreement to resolve the Gallatin litigation with the State and TDEC underscores TVA’s commitment to safety and the environment,” said Jeff Lyash, TVA’s President and CEO.

“After a thorough review of the scientific evidence, and with the availability of an onsite lined landfill, TVA worked with TDEC to determine that it is the best interest of our customers, the State of Tennessee, and most importantly, our neighbors in the Gallatin community to remove the ash from the existing wet impoundments. We will continue to work with TDEC and other regulators to determine site-specific solutions that are in the best interest of all those we serve, not just at Gallatin, but at all our sites.”

TDEC filed the lawsuit in Davidson County Chancery Court in 2015, alleging violations of the Tennessee Solid Waste Disposal Act and the Tennessee Water Quality Control Act as a result of TVA’s coal ash disposal practices at the Gallatin plant. In November 2014, the Tennessee Clean Water Network and the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association sent a 60-day notice of violation letter to TVA, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and TDEC under a provision of the federal Clean Water Act, alleging multiple violations at the Gallatin plant related to its operations of the ash ponds at the site.

“After years of tireless advocacy by our clients, Tennessee Clean Water Network and Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association, we’re pleased to have been able to work with the State of Tennessee to achieve a resolution that will safely remove and clean up coal ash from TVA’s leaking, unlined pits at Gallatin,” said Amanda Garcia, Managing Attorney for SELC’s Tennessee office. “This case has helped to protect the Cumberland River, a precious resource for drinking water and recreation in Middle Tennessee.”

TVA will have to close units at its coal ash pond complex in Gallatin by removing coal combustion residuals and remediating the area consistent with the Tennessee Solid Waste Disposal Act. Under the agreement, TVA must develop a plan for the removal of the material and submit the plan to TDEC for approval.

TVA must submit its plan by no later than September 30, 2020. TVA must also provide a copy of its proposed plan for removal to the Tennessee Clean Water Network and the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association. The citizens groups will have 30 days to provide comments on the proposal and provide a copy of their comments to TVA.

TVA must complete removal of the ash pond complex within 20 years of TDEC’s final approval of the plan.

TVA began operation of the Gallatin plant in 1956. Coal combustion residuals generated at the plant have been sluiced and treated in a series of on-site, unlined settling and stilling ponds.

The settlement of the lawsuit allows TVA to conduct a treatability test and field demonstration at the facility’s legacy CCR disposal site for five years. At the conclusion of the project, TVA will submit a corrective action/risk assessment plan to TDEC outlining corrective measures for closure of the legacy site and remediation of groundwater contamination.

The case has been before Davidson County Chancellor Russell T. Perkins.

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, June 3, 2019:

Most Tennessee Promise Saturday events are on June 22

NASHVILLE – Tennessee State Parks are offering volunteer events at 54 of the 56 state parks for Tennessee Promise scholars to fulfill their community service hours. Most of the events are on Saturday, June 22.

“This is an excellent opportunity for Tennessee Promise students to meet their requirements and be a part of the outdoors at the same time,” said Jim Bryson, deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. “Tennessee Promise is giving students a great chance to further their education, and we’re glad Tennessee State Parks can be a part of that.”

Tennessee Promise Saturday includes a variety of work projects at the parks, including landscaping, invasive plant removal, litter pickup, trail maintenance, and more. Participants should wear appropriate clothing for the work and bring items such as water, snacks and sunscreen. Students should check with each individual park on the activities planned and details on what they will need to do and bring.

Students are encouraged to find details about service hours at state parks by visiting https://tnstateparks.com/about/special-events/tn-promise-saturday.

Tennessee Promise provides students the chance to attend tuition-free any of the state’s 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology or other eligible institutions offering an associate degree program. One of the requirements to maintain eligibility is to complete eight hours of community service. For the class of 2019, the deadline to complete the community service is July 1. The parks also accept help on Tennessee Promise Saturday from any volunteers who wish to participate.

The two parks not part of Tennessee Promise Saturday are Big Cypress Tree State Park and Dunbar Cave State Park, but students near Dunbar Cave can go to nearby Port Royal State Park for its event.

Press Release from the State of Tennessee May 24, 2019:

The Asian longhorned tick (shown left) and the Lone Star tick (shown right). Photo by G. Hickling, courtesy UTIA.

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Agriculture, United States Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, Tennessee Department of Health, and University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) today announced the detection of the invasive Asian longhorned tick in Tennessee.

The Asian longhorned tick has now spread to 11 states. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there is no evidence that the tick has transmitted pathogens to humans or animals in the U.S.

Two Asian longhorned ticks were recently found on a dog in Union County, and five were found on a cow in Roane County. In the U.S., the tick has been reported on 17 different mammal species.

“Tennessee has a relatively large amount and variety of ticks,” Dr. R.T. Trout Fryxell, Associate Professor of Medical and Veterinary Entomology for UTIA, said. “It is important to be diligent and keep an eye out for all ticks because many varieties can transmit pathogens or cause painful bites.”

Tips to prevent tick bites in animals and livestock include:

  • Coordinate with your veterinarian to determine appropriate pest prevention for pets and livestock.
  • Check pets and livestock for ticks frequently.
  • Remove any ticks by pulling from the attachment site of the tick bite with tweezers.
  • Monitor your pets and livestock for any changes in health.
  • If your animals are bitten by a tick, Dr. Trout Fryxell suggests putting the tick in a ziplock bag, writing down the date and where the tick was most likely encountered, and storing it in a freezer.
  • If any symptoms of a tick-borne disease begin to develop, you should bring the tick to your veterinarian.

For additional information about the longhorned tick in the United States, click here. To find more information on tick-borne diseases, click here.

Press Release from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, May 14, 2019:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee State Parks will celebrate National Trails Day with free guided hikes at all 56 state parks on Saturday, June 1.

This will be the third of the state parks’ signature hikes this year, following First Day Hikes in January and Spring Hikes in March. Thus far, 4,787 park visitors have participated in the hikes.

“This is an opportunity for people to feel connected to nature and to learn about a Tennessee State Park at the same time with the guidance of a park ranger,” said Anne Marshall, acting deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. “Whether you’re interested in a park’s history, seeing incredible views or taking a challenging trek, our parks give everyone that feeling that you can’t get anywhere else.”

The American Hiking Society designates the first Saturday in June as National Trails Day as a day of public events aimed at advocacy and trail service. Last year, 108,947 people participated in 1,203 events across 50 states.

Tennessee State Parks are offering a variety of ranger led hikes, night hikes, history hikes, nature hikes or trail clean-up hikes. With more than 1,000 miles of trails, ranging from easy paved trails to rugged backcountry trails to scenic waterways, the state parks have something for everyone.

For more information about the hikes visit: https://tnstateparks.com/about/special-events/national-trails-day-hikes/.

A former Republican state senator and candidate for governor has been selected to oversee Tennessee’s system of state parks and natural areas.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation announced Monday that Nashville entrepreneur and marketing specialist Jim Bryson, who in 2006 ran an unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign against incumbent Democrat Phil Bredesen, will replace Brock Hill as deputy TDEC commissioner.

Jim Bryson

Hill, a Cumberland County native, was let go earlier this year following allegations of “workplace misconduct.”

The department’s press release is below:

TDEC Announces Bryson Deputy Commissioner for Parks and Conservation

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner David Salyers today announced the appointment of Jim Bryson as deputy commissioner of Parks and Conservation at TDEC.

“Jim’s experience in business, state government and community involvement, coupled with his passion for the outdoors, makes him uniquely qualified for this position,” Salyers said. “I look forward to working with Jim to make Tennessee State Parks the best run state park system in the nation.”

“I am honored to be chosen for this role and I look forward to serving Tennessee in this capacity,” Bryson said. “We have an outstanding record in parks and conservation in Tennessee, and I am committed to building on that success alongside the incredible staff. This is a special opportunity for us to preserve and enhance enjoyment of the great natural wonders of our state.”

Bryson is founder and president of 20/20 Research Inc., a market research consulting, project management and technology firm based in Nashville. The business launched in 1986 and is a global leader in online qualitative research software and services. Its QualBoard research platform is used by clients in over 90 countries and in more than 30 languages. Bryson served three terms as president of the Qualitative Research Consultants Association, an international association of research professionals.

Elected in 2002, Bryson served four years as a senator in the Tennessee General Assembly, representing Williamson and Davidson counties, and was his party’s nominee for governor in 2006.

Bryson’s love of the outdoors began in rural Arkansas, living near Lake Dardanelle and Lake Dardanelle State Park. He spent many days and nights in the park, on the lake or in the woods hiking, camping, hunting and fishing.

Bryson is founder and president of The Joseph School, providing a globally competitive education for poor and orphaned children in Haiti. He was a founding board member of the Marketing Research Education Foundation, focused on improving global childhood education. He is a member of the Nashville Downtown Rotary Club and First Baptist Church in Nashville. He received a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University after graduating from Baylor University. He and his wife, Carol, have four children and two grandchildren.

Paddlesport fishing promoters chart course into international waters

A potentially sea-changing angling competition is set to launch on the vast, bass-rich reaches of Center Hill Lake at the end of May.

During the week following Memorial Day, elite kayak anglers from across the Western Hemisphere will converge on the Upper Cumberland to test their skills and try their luck against one another in a first-of-its-kind invitational tournament that organizers hope baits the hook for bigger fish to fry down the line.

The Caney Fork River’s impounded waters behind Center Hill Dam will serve as venue to a distinguished lineup of paddle-and-pole wielding mastercasters who’ll compete in this year’s inaugural Pan-American Kayak Bass Championship.

Drew Gregory will participate in the Pan American Kayak Fishing Championship on Center Hill Lake May 28-31.

Countries slated to ship angler-ambassadors here to contend against the USA Bass Kayak team for transcontinental bass bragging rights include Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.

The overarching goal of the tournament is to lay the foundation for establishing an officially sanctioned world-championship kayak fishing competition — which could lead ultimately to recognition and embrace of the sport by the International Olympic Committee.

At a minimum, the multinational USA Bass-sponsored meet-up will elevate Center Hill Lake’s profile, and burnish the Upper Cumberland’s reputation as a paddling-angler’s paradise second to none.

Participants are expected to arrive early and stay late exploring various regional fisheries in addition to Center Hill — like Cordell Hull and Dale Hollow lakes, as well Cumberland River Basin moving-water jewels, like the upper and lower reaches of the Caney Fork and its multispecies-filled tributaries, the Falling Water, Calfkiller and Collins rivers.

A Natural Fit

The Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau is responsible for luring the event to the area.

This region is a “natural fit” for high-end angling tournaments and other adventure-sport gatherings with the capacity to draw substantial crowds of participants and spectators, said Zach Ledbetter, vice president of visitor development.

“We have an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts, especially those who want to compete on calm and bass-filled waters,” said Ledbetter. “Aside from the outstanding hospitality of our community, the value of our natural assets allows us to welcome anglers from all over the world.”

Ledbetter put together a bid package last fall that outshined efforts by other fishing destinations — including Columbia, S.C., Hot Springs, Ark. and Branson, Mo.

“Cookeville and Center Hill Lake quickly became the clear choice to host this historic event,” said Tony Forte, president of USA Bass and founder of the U.S Angling Confederation, a nonprofit sport-fishing advocacy group.

The public is encouraged to meet and mingle with anglers at the tournament launch areas — Ragland Bottom Recreation Area, Cane Hollow Boat Ramp and Rock Island State Park.

Forte said tournament officials “looked at Dale Hollow pretty hard, too.” But DHL lacked CHL’s logistical appeal, he said. Center Hill Lake is situated nearer Nashville and I-40 — and it’s neighbored by inviting communities like Sparta, McMinnville and Smithville in addition to Cookeville.

Tourism-focused businesses throughout the area may get a bite of extra business from the Pan Am event. “We really hope this proves advantageous to the host communities, and commerce is obviously part of that process,” said Forte. “If this event allows for some guided fishing trips and more stays in local hotels and meals in local restaurants and those kinds of things, then we’re all about it.”

That’s obviously what Ledbetter has in mind, too. And he echoed a sentiment shared by chamber leaders around the Upper Cumberland: visitors come here for numerous regional attractions, so it makes sense to work across county lines to promote events, activities and destinations.

Cookeville serves as a destination hub for the Upper Cumberland, Ledbetter said, and visitors will often roam out to explore the surrounding region using the city as a base camp. In fact, none of the Pan Am tournament launch points are actually in Putnam County — Cane Hollow is in White County, Ragland Bottom is in DeKalb, and Rock Island is in Warren.

“We push day trips a lot,” Ledbetter said. “Whether visitors just stay right here in Cookeville, or go out to places like Cumberland Caverns in Warren County or Granville in Jackson County, we consider it a win for all of us.”

Big Name Boaters

Forte said kayak angling has for the past decade been “exploding worldwide.” But as yet it “hasn’t evolved to the point where it’s making household names.”

“That’s part of what a tournament like ours is designed to do,” he said.

Chad Hoover

The Pan Am Kayak Bass Championship could launch competitive kayak angling onto the global stage — and likewise position the Upper Cumberland to anchor future international tournaments.

“I would love to see a world championship come to Cookeville at some point — where we invite all the nations’ best kayak anglers to come,” said Forte. “We’re hoping we can make that happen.”

If the anglers competing to win the Pan Am aren’t household names exactly, some aren’t altogether unrecognizable either.

The two biggest names on the U.S. team are probably those belonging to Chad Hoover and Eric Jackson.

Both are media-savvy adventure-sport entrepreneurs who’ve navigated their life’s passions into lucrative careers that allow them to spend a lot of their waking hours on the water for a living.

A resident of Hendersonville, Hoover hosts Youtube’s most popular kayak fishing channel.

Not only has Hoover been a kayak-fishing fanatic for two decades — long before its popularity caught on — he’s organized some of the largest North American paddlesport angling tournaments ever held. His KBF brand is one of the Pan Am tournament’s sponsors — although he himself is solely a participant.

Eric Jackson

Jackson is already a pioneering, world championship-winning athlete ranked among whitewater kayaking’s most accomplished competitors in the sport’s history. Propelling himself onto the winner’s dock to hoist aloft the first ever Pan Am kayak bass champion’s trophy would constitute a truly remarkable follow-up to Jackson’s brilliant 30-year whitewater paddling career.

There’s also the fact that the company Jackson founded is probably the most identifiable paddlesport boat-maker in the world.

Jackson Kayak’s immense White County factory headquarters bolstered the area’s allure to Pan Am organizers. JK is helping sponsor the event and will provide kayaks for anglers visiting from far-flung foreign fisheries.

Springtime Is Primetime

Speaking of which, home-water advantage for Tennessee anglers like Hoover and Jackson won’t likely play as big a factor in the Pan Am championship as might typically be expected, according to a pair of veteran anglers well accustom to competing in bass tournaments on Center Hill Lake.

The Pan Am’s timing coincides with what’s typically some of CHL’s hottest bass fishing, said local pros Josh Tramel and Adam Wagner.

Tramel lives in Smithville and Wagner in Cookeville, and both have earned more tournament wins and money finishes on the lake than either can rightly recall. Each could stock an enviable trophy room just with Center Hill Lake hardware they’ve collected over the decades.

Already this year Tramel has landed an FLW first-place trophy on CHL in a tournament that saw Wagner place 5th. Wagner netted a victory on Dale Hollow Lake over the winter — his 11th career victory in FLW Bass Fishing League competitions, tying him at third for most FLW tourney first-place finishes of all time.

Pan Am anglers will compete for inches rather than pounds.

Tramel and Wagner say black bass on CHL in late May will likely be holding in relatively shallow water, and probably in a mood to bite and fight. That’s good news for anglers unfamiliar with the lake’s perplexing range of deeper-water structure, around which bass will spend most of their daytime hours after water temps start their summertime climb in June.

Tramel expects Pan Am tournament anglers will locate fish in water less than 15 feet deep — maybe even less than 10 feet in some areas. “The 10- or 12-foot range will catch them at that time of year,” he said.

Another nice thing about spring fishing is that anglers can choose from a variety of plugs, plastics and presentation tactics that will yield success, said Wagner.

“It’ll be really, really good in late May,” he said. “That post-spawn bite over there is always good. You can catch them on topwater, you can catch them on a Carolina rig, you can catch them on a crankbait or a spoon. There are just a whole lot of things you can do to catch fish on Center Hill at that time of year.”

Tramel said Pan Am competitors might have difficulty tracking down paunchy females, but aggressive males will be guarding schools of recently hatched fry and “will be hitting pretty good.”

“It’s a really good time for like two-and-a-half to three-and-a-quarter-pounders,” he said.

Like Wagner, Tramel expects surface-swimming lures will make for good fishing during the tournament, which isn’t always the case on Center Hill.

“Topwater will be a player. There will probably be a lot of fish caught on topwater at that point,” Tramel said. “There’ll also be some good fish caught on a shakey head, drop-shot sort of thing. My favorite thing would be pitching at that point in the year — pitching a jig or some plastics, bigger-profile type baits.”

One of Tramel’s standard strategies on CHL is to keep moving. He avoids spending too much time in one area if he’s not hooking up — even if he’s already boated a couple in the vicinity. It’s kind of unusual to catch multiple keeper-size fish in one location on Center Hill, he said.

If they were competing in the Pan Am tournament, both Wagner and Tramel say they’d want to launch from Cane Hollow or Ragland Bottom.

“With either one of those, you wouldn’t have to go far at all to catch fish,” Wagner said. “You could basically put in and start fishing. All the area around both Ragland and Cane Hollow is pretty good.”

“I fish around Cane Hollow a lot,” Tramel said. “It is up in Falling Water River and there are just a couple different sorts of structure-types, but historically the fish will be hitting back in there.”

Located in the heart of the Center Hill Lake, the Army Corps of Engineers-managed Ragland Bottom recreation area offers a wealth of fish-habitat diversity in many directions.

“There’s a lot of versatile water around there where you can do a lot of different things,” Tramel said. “You’ve got the main channel, you’ve creeks and pockets and all different kinds of structure that the fish can get in to.”

Certain areas of the lake are better for smallmouth than largemouth, and visa versa, Tramel noted.

“Whereas in Falling Water, you’re going to be targeting largemouth primarily, around Ragland Bottom you’re going to have access to whatever bass species you want to fish for,” he said.

Spotted bass caught on Center Hill have lately been running smaller than smallmouth and largemouth, Tramel added.

Wagner disclosed that Davies Island, located about two river miles north of Ragland, is a Center Hill sweet spot.

“It’s got some very good current through there, especially when they’re really pulling water (at the dam),” he said. “There are a lot of spots there, where current hits, that are really good.”

Davies Island is positioned at the confluence of the Falling Water and Caney Fork river arms. The island is four miles in circumference and “a huge population of fish” tend to congregate around it, said Wagner.

Fishing in a kayak is quite a bit different than fishing in a boat. Whereas stealth and maneuverability are a kayak’s chief attributes, bass boats can obviously cover a lot more water.

Tramel and Wagner agree that not being able to zip across the lake at 60 miles an hour in search of covert bass cover would dramatical change how they’d approach a tournament.

“In a bass boat, I can run from one end of the lake to the other in not a whole lot of time,” Tramel said. “In a kayak, you better start where there are some fish, or you’re probably going to be in trouble.”