Executive Order from President Donald J. Trump:

Link: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-improving-free-inquiry-transparency-accountability-colleges-universities/

Executive Order on Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities

Issued on: March 21, 2019

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Purpose. The purpose of this order is to enhance the quality of postsecondary education by making it more affordable, more transparent, and more accountable. Institutions of higher education (institutions) should be accountable both for student outcomes and for student life on campus.

In particular, my Administration seeks to promote free and open debate on college and university campuses. Free inquiry is an essential feature of our Nation’s democracy, and it promotes learning, scientific discovery, and economic prosperity. We must encourage institutions to appropriately account for this bedrock principle in their administration of student life and to avoid creating environments that stifle competing perspectives, thereby potentially impeding beneficial research and undermining learning.

The financial burden of higher education on students and their families is also a national problem that needs immediate attention. Over the past 30 years, college tuition and fees have grown at more than twice the rate of the Consumer Price Index. Rising student loan debt, coupled with low repayment rates, threatens the financial health of both individuals and families as well as of Federal student loan programs. In addition, too many programs of study fail to prepare students for success in today’s job market.

The Federal Government can take meaningful steps to address these problems. Selecting an institution and course of study are important decisions for prospective students and significantly affect long-term earnings. Institutions should be transparent about the average earnings and loan repayment rates of former students who received Federal student aid. Additionally, the Federal Government should make this information readily accessible to the public and to prospective students and their families, in particular.

This order will promote greater access to critical information regarding the prices and outcomes of postsecondary education, thereby furthering the goals of the National Council for the American Worker established by Executive Order 13845 of July 19, 2018 (Establishing the President’s National Council for the American Worker). Increased information disclosure will help ensure that individuals make educational choices suited to their needs, interests, and circumstances. Access to this information will also increase institutional accountability and encourage institutions to take into account likely future earnings when establishing the cost of their educational programs.

Sec. 2. Policy. It is the policy of the Federal Government to:

(a) encourage institutions to foster environments that promote open, intellectually engaging, and diverse debate, including through compliance with the First Amendment for public institutions and compliance with stated institutional policies regarding freedom of speech for private institutions;

(b) help students (including workers seeking additional training) and their families understand, through better data and career counseling, that not all institutions, degrees, or fields of study provide similar returns on their investment, and consider that their educational decisions should account for the opportunity cost of enrolling in a program;

(c) align the incentives of institutions with those of students and taxpayers to ensure that institutions share the financial risk associated with Federal student loan programs;

(d) help borrowers avoid defaulting on their Federal student loans by educating them about risks, repayment obligations, and repayment options; and

(e) supplement efforts by States and institutions by disseminating information to assist students in completing their degrees faster and at lower cost.

Sec. 3. Improving Free Inquiry on Campus. (a) To advance the policy described in subsection 2(a) of this order, the heads of covered agencies shall, in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, take appropriate steps, in a manner consistent with applicable law, including the First Amendment, to ensure institutions that receive Federal research or education grants promote free inquiry, including through compliance with all applicable Federal laws, regulations, and policies.

(b) “Covered agencies” for purposes of this section are the Departments of Defense, the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Transportation, Energy, and Education; the Environmental Protection Agency; the National Science Foundation; and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

(c) “Federal research or education grants” for purposes of this section include all funding provided by a covered agency directly to an institution but do not include funding associated with Federal student aid programs that cover tuition, fees, or stipends.

Sec. 4. Improving Transparency and Accountability on Campus. (a) To advance the policy described in subsections 2(b)-(e) of this order, the Secretary of Education (Secretary) shall, to the extent consistent with applicable law:

(i) make available, by January 1, 2020, through the Office of Federal Student Aid, a secure and confidential website and mobile application that informs Federal student loan borrowers of how much they owe, how much their monthly payment will be when they enter repayment, available repayment options, how long each repayment option will take, and how to enroll in the repayment option that best serves their needs;

(ii) expand and update annually the College Scorecard, or any successor, with the following program-level data for each certificate, degree, graduate, and professional program, for former students who received Federal student aid:

(A) estimated median earnings;

(B) median Stafford loan debt;

(C) median Graduate PLUS loan debt (if applicable);

(D) median Parent PLUS loan debt; and

(E) student loan default rate and repayment rate; and

(iii) expand and update annually the College Scorecard, or any successor, with the following institution-level data, providing the aggregate for all certificate, degree, graduate, and professional programs, for former students who received Federal student aid:

(A) student loan default rate and repayment rate;

(B) Graduate PLUS default rate and repayment rate; and

(C) Parent PLUS default rate and repayment rate.

(b) For the purpose of implementing subsection (a)(ii) of this section, the Secretary of the Treasury shall, upon the request of the Secretary, provide in a timely manner appropriate statistical studies and compilations regarding program-level earnings, consistent with section 6108(b) of title 26, United States Code, other applicable laws, and available data regarding programs attended by former students who received Federal student aid.

Sec. 5. Reporting Requirements. (a) By January 1, 2020, the Secretary, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, shall submit to the President, through the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, a report identifying and analyzing policy options for sharing the risk associated with Federal student loan debt among the Federal Government, institutions, and other entities.
(b) By January 1, 2020, the Secretary, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, shall submit to the President, through the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, policy recommendations for reforming the collections process for Federal student loans in default.

(c) Beginning July 1, 2019, the Secretary shall provide an annual update on the Secretary’s progress in implementing the policies set forth in subsections 2(b)-(e) of this order to the National Council for the American Worker at meetings of the Council.

(d) Within 1 year of the date of this order, the Secretary shall compile information about successful State and institutional efforts to promote students’ timely and affordable completion of a postsecondary program of study. Based on that information, the Secretary shall publish a compilation of research results that addresses:

(i) how some States and institutions have better facilitated successful transfer of credits and degree completion by transfer students;

(ii) how States and institutions can increase access to dual enrollment programs; and

(iii) other strategies for increasing student success, especially among students at high risk of not completing a postsecondary program of study.

Sec. 6. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

DONALD J. TRUMP

THE WHITE HOUSE,
March 21, 2019.

Press Release from the Office of Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, March 21, 2019:

Praise for education savings accounts, charter schools

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s charter school bill passed in both the Tennessee General Assembly House and Senate education committees just one day after Gov. Lee’s education savings account proposal advanced from the House curriculum subcommittee.

“With the legislature’s hard work, school choice has momentum and we are working together to put students first and strengthen our public education system,” said Lee. “Low-income students deserve the same opportunities and we have a bold plan that levels the playing field while also focusing improvement on the lowest-performing school districts.”

Parents, legislators, educators and advocates from across the state praised Gov. Lee’s efforts to focus on students and expand educational opportunity.

Support for Gov. Lee’s School Choice Agenda:

“Gov. Lee’s full education agenda is exceptional for students in Memphis and across our state. By investing $71 million in teacher pay raises and an additional $5 million into improving student and teacher support in our priority schools, he is making clear he is willing to do whatever it takes for Tennessee’s students. While I’ve always been against vouchers, Governor Lee’s comprehensive approach to giving more freedom and flexibility to students and families through Education Savings Accounts and further investment in our schools is the bold and innovative reform our state needs to ensure every child has access to a quality education.” – Cato Johnson, former Chairman of Tennessee Higher Education Commission and former member of the State Board of Education, Shelby County

“I support Gov. Lee’s bold plan to introduce a better way to educate children in Tennessee. As a mother and grandmother, I believed that we must create a better way especially for minority children. Charter schools and ESAs will continue to open doors for students that have been marginalized by educational opportunities.” – Latonya Bell, concerned Nashville parent

“As a mother, wife, entrepreneur, and native Tennessean, I know firsthand the power of education, and the tremendous impact it has on generations of Tennesseans. I believe we can not only rebuild a stronger foundation for our youth by creating new pathways for education, such as utilizing educational savings accounts; we can deliver innovative regional solutions that meet the specific needs of students and parents across all of Tennessee. By supporting the ESA program, we can provide an essential piece to the puzzle and empower parents to provide customized solutions for their children’s future.” – Tessa Eades, concerned Nashville parent and advocate

“I am grateful for Gov. Lee’s efforts to provide alternatives for students who might otherwise be denied an opportunity for a great education. As Senate Majority Leader, I am the proud and enthusiastic sponsor of this important legislation.” – Sen. Jack Johnson, Senate Majority Leader, District 23

“I fully support the governor’s initiatives on expanding educational opportunities for children and look forward to our continued collaboration going forward.” – Rep. William Lamberth, House Majority Leader, District 44

“Having been on the education committee for seven years, I appreciate that Gov. Lee is focused on ensuring Tennessee’s education system is serving every student in our state. His bold agenda supporting students, teachers, families, and education leaders will help Tennessee lead the nation with a strong educated workforce and a stronger economy.” – Rep. Mark White, House Education Committee Chair, District 83

“I’m excited that the opportunity for families to have a choice in securing the best education for their child is moving forward.” – Rep. Bill Dunn, District 16

“I applaud Gov. Lee’s bold education agenda to invest in our state’s students, teachers and families. From pay raises for teachers, support for rural school leaders, investment in CTE and STEM, more choice for families with accountable charter schools and education savings accounts, Gov. Lee is spurring innovation so that all our schools improve in preparing every student for the jobs of tomorrow.” – Marlon King, educator, leader and parent

“I have a really hard time telling parents that their money shouldn’t be used for their students, their children. I have a hard time explaining to them why they have to continue to leave their child in a school that has been failing for the past 30 years.” – Rhonda Thurman, Hamilton County School Board Member

“I support any move Gov. Lee can make toward giving more parents more choices in the educational process for their children. Parents have had too few choices for too long. We need significant change for there to be significant progress in results for our children across our state. I fully support Gov. Lee’s Tennessee Education Savings Accounts.” – Dan Chord, Board Member of Independent School in Bradley County

“Tennessee students are so lucky that Gov. Lee is taking a ‘by any means necessary’ approach to ensuring that all children will have access to great schools. His charter school authorization legislation will accelerate the creation of highly effective schools across the state, just as our charter school program has done in Nashville. And for those students still without excellent options, Education Savings Accounts will empower our most economically disadvantaged families with the means to secure good schooling for their children, just as more affluent parents already do. Both proposals make it clear that Gov. Lee is applying as much concern for the state’s children as he has for his own children and grandchildren. We can’t ask for more than that.” – David Fox, Former Chairman of Metro Nashville Public Schools

“According to the Tennessee Department of Education’s report card, only 35.8 percent are college ready. That number is cut in half when you look at black, Hispanic and Native American students and students who are economically disadvantaged. Gov. Lee’s approach in using ESAs will reach those regardless of zip code.” – Tommy Vallejos, community activist and pastor, Clarksville

“This charter school proposal by Gov. Lee would take the politics out of the process and put the focus back on kids. We have seen our local district deny applications for charter schools we believe would work for our students. The bottom line is we need more great schools.” – Sarah Carpenter, Executive Director of The Memphis Lift

“As educators, we should be driven by what is best for students. The ESA bill is 100% student-centered. It allows parents the choice to help their children get a better education at a school that is the best fit for their child.” – Sean Corcoran, Head of School at Brainerd Baptist School in Chattanooga

“Giving parents greater access to additional quality options for their child’s education is always beneficial. Making education savings accounts a reality for families in Memphis and across the State would be a good thing. We must do everything we can to help all students succeed.” – Tom Marino, Executive Director at Poplar Foundation

“At the Tennessee Charter School Center, we believe that establishing a high quality independent statewide appellate authorizer, founded on best practices, will ensure that decisions to open charter schools in Tennessee are based on what is best for students, not politics.” – Maya Bugg, CEO of Tennessee Charter School Center

“Tennessee’s public charter schools are spurring innovation that is helping to drive greater achievement and success for thousands of Tennessee students. Gov. Lee’s initiative that would create the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission would help expand great public school options that have proven to be effective for students and continue the fast student achievement growth we have seen since 2011.” – David Mansouri, President & CEO, SCORE

Press Release from the Cookeville-Putnam Visitors’ Bureau, March 21, 2019:

Link: https://visitcookevilletn.com/

DAYTONA BEACH – “One Meeting, Twelve States, Infinite Ideas,” is the sentiment of the 2019 Southeast Tourism Society’s CONNECTIONS Conference, taking place this week in Daytona Beach, Fl. Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau team members Zach Ledbetter and Molly Brown attended, along with nearly 350 travel industry representatives from across the Southeast.

STS, a leader among travel organizations for more than 35 years, creates an unparalleled and powerful marketing alliance of regional tourism promotion. The membership organization is comprised of twelve states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Tennessee has the third highest participation in STS, and most recently one of the largest increases in membership.

STS focuses on four pillars: Education, Advocacy, Recognition and Networking. The CONNECTIONS conference mirrors those pillars with educational sessions featuring topics such as Cutting-Edge Research, Social (Media) Listening, Data Driven Marketing, Meeting Planner Trends, Connecting Research and Advocacy, Measuring Marketing Effectiveness, Airbnb/Short-term Rental Effects, Lifestyle Marketing/Economic Development Organizational Partnerships, and Detecting Southeast Travel & Tourism Economic Drivers.

Zach Ledbetter, vice president of visitor development, Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau; Wendy Thomas, director of marketing & communications, Southeast Tourism Society; Heather Blanchard, director of member development, Southeast Tourism Society; Melanie Beauchamp, director of outreach, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development; and Molly Brown, director of public relations & marketing, Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau.

In addition to educational sessions and networking opportunities, STS CONNECTIONS featured an industry trade show, an awards ceremony and STS Marketing College™ Graduation. During the opening luncheon on Tuesday, 62 graduates received official certification as Travel Marketing Professionals, an accolade that requires three years of professional development course work, specifically in the tourism marketing curriculum. The TMP designation was attained by Brown in 2017. Ledbetter is currently enrolled in the TMP program and is set to complete with anticipated graduation in Spring 2020.

Exclusive CONNECTIONS seminars were offered to attendees with TMP certifications. These sessions offered elevated content such as Emerging Tech Travel Trends and Marketing to International Travelers. Brown attended each of these classes.

In continuing the growth of partnered tourism promotion, STS President & CEO Monica Smith was joined on stage during the conference by Travel South USA President & CEO Liz Bittner to share plans for the upcoming collaboration in hosting the Travel South Showcase, the premier marketplace event in the South where more than 500 tourism professionals gather for 3 days of intensive meetings with a goal of delivering more visitors, spending more time and more money in the South.

This partnership will create an even stronger alliance of Southern tourism promotion, connecting Southern destinations, attractions, entertainment and hotels with tour operators and journalists from around the world who influence more visitor spending in the region while also building a stronger network among those tourism professionals.

“This is our first time having the opportunity to attend the STS CONNECTIONS Conference and can’t say enough about the takeaways already attained,” said Ledbetter. “The caliber of the travel industry professionals here as well as the speakers and content of the conference, the structure of sessions, and the opportunities for us to elevate the marketing assets of our community are outstanding.”

“We look forward to working more with the STS organization as well as Travel South USA in inspiring travel to Cookeville-Putnam County.”

About Southeast Tourism Society: Mission: Dedicated to improving the economic vitality of the Southeast by uniting all segments of the Travel and Tourism Industry; promoting tourism within our member states, fostering cooperation, sharing resources and providing continuing education. Vision: To create, maintain and promote a cohesive membership organization responsive to the development of travel and tourism professionals and organizations within the southeast United States of America. For more information about Southeast Tourism Society, go to southeasttourism.org.

About the Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau: The Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau, a program of the Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, serves as the designated destination marketing organization (DMO) for Putnam County and is funded by a portion of the Putnam County lodging tax, a tax paid by visitors’ and collected by local lodging partners such as hotels, bed & breakfasts, etc. Ranking at 17th of Tennessee’s 95 counties, the visitors’ bureau is tasked with inspiring travel and overnight stays in Putnam County. Primary marketing pillars in drive and fly markets include outdoors; fitness/sports; motorcycling; arts/culture; and culinary/crafts. Most recent U.S. Travel Association statistics note visitor spending in Putnam County generated $2.7 million in local tax revenue, providing a tax relief for local residents with a savings of $358.47 per household. Explore more at VisitCookevilleTN.com. For more information about the Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau, info@visitcookevilletn.com

Press Release from the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, March 18, 2019:

Link: https://www.tn.gov/twra/news/2019/3/18/tennessee-anglers-shine-in-bassmaster-classic-with-top-two-places–two-additional-in-top-seven.html

Tennessee Anglers Shine in Bassmaster Classic with Top Two Places; Two Additional in Top Seven

Tennessee anglers captured the top two places and posted two additional spots among the top seven in the 2019 Bassmaster Classic. The impressive performances capped off the three-day event in Knoxville.

Ott DeFoe put the finishing touches on a storybook performance in his hometown. The Knoxville angler was the overall champion with a total of 49 pounds, 3 ounces. He earned the title after a sixth place finish a year ago.

Harrison resident Jacob Wheeler came in second place in his third B.A.S.S. tournament. He had a three-day total of 45-5. Brandon Lester claimed sixth place. The Fayetteville native had a three-day total of 40-3. Right behind in seventh position was Spring City’s Wesley Strader with 39-8 to give all the Volunteer State’s anglers competing top 10 finishes.

The Classic showcased Tennessee as one of the nation’s top fishing destinations. A record attendance of more than 153,800 were in attendance at the tournament venues, including the daily afternoon weigh-ins at Thompson Boling Arena, the Classic Outdoors Expo at the Knoxville Convention Center and World’s Fair Exhibition Hall, and the morning takeoffs at Volunteers Landing. The Saturday takeoff drew 6,500 while Friday’s was 5,500, both new records.

Fishing is big business in Tennessee. With 1.8 million anglers and an economic impact of more than $1.1 billion in Tennessee, fishing drives tourism throughout the state and supports close to 10,000 jobs. The Classic alone had an economic impact of more than $25 million in and around Knoxville

Press Release from Professional Educators of Tennessee, March 19, 2019:

Op-Ed by JC Bowman
Executive Director
Professional Educators of Tennessee
jc.bowman@proedtn.org

In Tennessee, we appreciate straight talk and candor. So, to the point: statewide testing has taken a wrong turn in public education, not to mention Tennessee has failed in our statewide testing administration since 2012. Now we are about to start over, possibly with a new vendor. There is no guarantee this will work any better than previous attempts.

At no point were any of the previous testing problems the fault of students or educators in Tennessee. The state has simply failed students, teachers, parents, and taxpayers. We understand mistakes are made by individuals, by companies, and even by our government. Clearly, there is a problem with testing in Tennessee. It is a flawed testing system, which could be addressed if we were to pilot innovative approaches that encourage our schools and their communities to work together and design solutions without bureaucratic hurdles. That would be a sensible strategy to pursue.

This is why some legislators have argued for allowing LEAs to use the ACT, ACT Aspire, or SAT Suites as a means of assessment. This request continues to be asked for by several high-performing districts across the state frustrated by state failures. We must also break down the bureaucratic barriers that have kept educators and school districts from pursuing solutions to the unique challenges of their communities. We should pursue reliable tests that provide accurate feedback for educators, parents, and students, or perhaps allow districts the opportunities to use these alternative assessments.

The current testing culture has killed the enthusiasm of many educators. No single test should be a determinant of a student’s, teacher’s or school’s success. Although we need testing to measure the progress of our students, we should recognize that these tests are often unreliable in evaluating teachers and schools. True measurement of progress should instead consist of several benchmarks, not just testing. However, testing goes beyond the purposes of entrance or placement into courses in postsecondary education or training programs.

With each testing failure, educators and districts have unfairly been the ones who bear the brunt, quite unfairly, of parental anger. Students also suffer, with everything from loss of instruction time to not understanding their educational progress. When we make education decisions on the basis of unreliable or invalid test results, we place students at risk and harm educators professionally. This is especially unfair to the hardworking teachers in our state.

We must listen to educators on the ground, and continue to champion innovation in public education. Educators want that chance to be inventive, and they understand the need to challenge the status quo to get results for the students in their community. Therefore, the state should not stand in the way of any LEA that wishes to use an alternative that is comparable to state-mandated assessment. The LEA should be required to notify parents or guardians of students that the LEA is using an approved testing alternative. In addition, the LEA, before using an approved testing alternative, should be required to notify the Tennessee Department of Education, in writing, of the grade level and subject matter in which the LEA intends to use an approved testing alternative. Senator Mark Pody and Representative Clark Boyd have proposed legislation (SB1307/HB1180) to allow districts this testing flexibility. It is similar to legislation that Senator Janice Bowling and Representative Terri Lynn Weaver have introduced previously (SB488/HB383).

High-quality assessments convey critical information for educators, families, the public, and students themselves and create the basis for improving outcomes for all learners. However, when testing is done badly or excessively, it takes important time away from teaching and learning, and limits creativity from our classrooms. It is important that Tennessee improves postsecondary and career readiness for all Tennessee students. Flawed testing does not move us toward that goal. It is time we allow our districts the flexibility that they have requested.

Note: State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver represents District 40 in the Tennessee General Assembly. Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

Press Release from the Office of Tennessee Comptroller Justin P. Wilson, March 19, 2019:

Link: https://comptroller.tn.gov/news/2019/3/19/new-report-examines-impact-of-ineffective-teachers-on-students.html

The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has released a new report that explores how students in Tennessee’s public schools are impacted when they are taught by an ineffective teacher for two consecutive years. The report was prepared at the request of Senator Dolores Gresham.

More than 8,000 Tennessee students (1.6 percent of students included in the study) had a teacher with low evaluation scores in both the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years in math, English, or both subjects.

Students were less likely than their peers to be proficient or advanced on the state’s assessments when they were taught by ineffective teachers in consecutive years. Student achievement also suffered with the largest effects found for the highest and lowest performing students. These results are consistent with other research indicating that ineffective teachers have negative academic impacts on students.

Students in certain districts, grades, subjects, and subgroups were more likely to be taught in consecutive years by ineffective teachers. English language learners, students in special education, and students in high-poverty schools were over 50 percent more likely than other students to have consecutive ineffective teachers. Students who had two ineffective teachers represented over 10 percent of the examined students in two school districts.

The report includes three policy considerations that address how to increase equitable access to effective teachers for all students, how to ensure that no student has ineffective teachers in consecutive years, and whether an annual report from the Tennessee Department of Education on this issue should be required.

To read the policy considerations and a more detailed analysis of the conclusions, please click here: https://comptroller.tn.gov/content/cot/office-functions/research-and-education-accountability.html

Press Release from TennGreen, March 15, 2019:

Link: https://www.tenngreen.org/single-post/2019/03/18/Fall-Creek-Falls-Expansion

The Tennessee Parks & Greenways Foundation (TennGreen) and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) are thrilled to announce the protection of two significant inholdings in Fall Creek Falls State Park, located in Van Buren County.

These two properties, which total around 27 acres on the northwest side of Fall Creek Falls State Park, have been areas of interest to TDEC for decades. Prior to TennGreen’s acquisition, both tracts were privately-owned and the landowners planned to sell them at auction. However, in order to ensure that these lands would be available to the public, the landowners agreed to work with TennGreen directly.

In early 2019, TennGreen purchased both properties on behalf of TDEC. Acquisition of these forested lands, located near the meeting point of Camps Gulf Branch and Cane Creek, will protect wildlife corridors and enable parks staff to more effectively maintain the park’s boundaries and highly-used amenities.

“Fall Creek Falls is already a natural gem,” said David Salyers, Commissioner for TDEC. “We are grateful to TennGreen and the landowners for making this wonderful expansion possible. This is an excellent example of what partnerships like this can achieve, and I’m excited that we are adding this beautiful forested area to a park that is already such a special place.”

We are pleased to see this important step,” said Jacob Young, Park Manager at Fall Creek Falls. “We are honored to be stewards of this property and we are glad this expansion can be enjoyed as part of Fall Creek Falls State Park for generations to come.”

Fall Creek Falls State Park is one of Tennessee’s most visited state parks. Named after the highest free-falling waterfall east of the Mississippi River—the 256-foot Fall Creek Falls—the park is home to a variety of activities, with more than 56 miles of trails, caves, overlooks, and waterfalls.

This expansion of Fall Creek Falls State Park represents one of TennGreen’s many successful partnerships with the State of Tennessee to protect lands in the Scotts Gulf region. Since 1998, TennGreen has assisted in the conservation of more than 8,000 acres—including Buzzards Roost/Millikan’s Overlook and the Cane Creek Crusher Hole in Fall Creek Falls State Park, Welch’s Point, and Virgin Falls State Natural Area.

“This acquisition will protect water quality and scenic views in the Camps Gulf area,” said Steve Law, Executive Director of TennGreen. “It will also protect habitat in this important area of Fall Creek Falls State Park where both state- and federally-listed endangered species have been documented. TennGreen is grateful for its partnership with the State of Tennessee to protect the beauty and natural assets of the Upper Cumberland for current inhabitants and future generations to enjoy.”

TennGreen is grateful to Dr. Stephen Stedman, Gloria & Ted LaRoche, Ann & Clark Tidwell, Louise Gorenflo & Dennis Gregg, and Nita Whitfield for their generous contributions to this project.

Press Release from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, March 14, 2019:

Link: https://www.dvidshub.net/news/314235/recreation-facilities-receive-damage-assessments-waters-recede

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 14, 2019) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District is assessing damage to recreation facilities at its 10 lakes in the Cumberland River Basin as high waters begin to recede.

Officials are working as conditions allow to determine impacts to public lands, including roadways, recreation areas, facilities and campsites to make sure they are safe ahead of the 2019 recreation season.

“What we would like to convey to the public is that the majority of recreation areas and campgrounds across the district will open on schedule,” said Freddie Bell, Nashville District Natural Resources Management Section chief.

He said there are some impacts to recreation areas and campgrounds at Dale Hollow Lake, Center Hill Lake and Lake Cumberland, where some delays and partial closures may occur for repairs.

“Be mindful that we are not able to fully assess the damage in some locations until waters recede further,” Bell added. “We are doing everything possible to limit delays and avoid reservation cancellations at our campgrounds and are looking at alternatives for visitors.”

Center Hill Lake
Corps officials at Center Hill Lake in Tennessee are assessing conditions as the lake recedes at its recreation areas, to include Long Branch Campground, Floating Mill Campground and Ragland Bottom Campground. Long Branch and Ragland Bottom Campgrounds are on schedule to open in April, though some campsite-specific closures may occur due to erosion around facilities.

Initial assessments at Floating Mill Campground reveal that the Corps may need to delay opening until at least June. Officials will post updates on the condition and availability of recreational facilities to the lake’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/centerhilllake.

Alternatives for visitors affected by reservation cancellations at Center Hill Lake include Edgar Evins State Park, Rock Island State Park, Center Hill Lake marinas, campgrounds at other Nashville District lakes, and other Kentucky and Tennessee state parks.

Dale Hollow Lake
At Dale Hollow Lake, located in Tennessee and Kentucky, the staff is assessing conditions as the lake recedes at its recreation areas, to include Lillydale Campground and Obey River Campground. Initial assessments at Lillydale and Obey River Campgrounds project a delay in opening of up to 30 days. Willow Grove Campground and Dale Hollow Dam Campground should open as scheduled. A biking trail and fishing piers near Dale Hollow Dam Campground are still under water and have to be assessed when the water recedes. Lake-wide primitive camping locations are normally open all year, but are closed due to high water, most likely into April. Officials will post updates on the condition and availability of recreational facilities to the lake’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/dalehollowlake.

Alternatives for visitors affected by reservation cancellations at Dale Hollow Lake include Dale Hollow Lake State Park, Dale Hollow Lake marinas, campgrounds at other Nashville District lakes, and other Kentucky and Tennessee state parks.

Lake Cumberland
At Lake Cumberland in Kentucky where the lake reached a record pool elevation of 756.52 feet on Feb. 26, Nashville District water managers continue to draw down the lake as Corps officials assess damage to recreation areas, to include campsites and boat ramps. Fall Creek Campground is opening on April 12. Cumberland Point Campground is also opening on April 12, 35 days earlier than originally scheduled to offset the unavailability of campsites at other areas on the lake.

Impacts at Fishing Creek Campground remain tentative as the lake continues to recede; however, we expect a delayed opening until mid-July. Below the dam at Kendall Campground, 11 campsites along the river are unavailable at this time due to erosion, but the campground will open on schedule. Corps officials are assessing conditions at Waitsboro Campground as the lake recedes, and the preliminary assessment has precipitated a partial seasonal closure most likely lasting into August. Officials will post updates on the condition and availability of recreational facilities to the lake’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/lakecumberland.

Alternatives for visitors affected by reservation cancellations at Lake Cumberland include Lake Cumberland State Park, Lake Cumberland marinas, campgrounds at other Nashville District lakes, and other Kentucky and Tennessee state parks.

Lake staffs are communicating with recreation.gov officials to notify guests with existing reservations of any campground and shelter cancellations. Visitors who are concerned about their campsite or shelter reservations should call the Recreation.gov direct line at 1-877-444-6777. They may also visit www.recreation.gov for information about their existing camping or shelter reservation or to check the availability of facilities. Customers with existing reservations for closed sites due to flooding will be given the option for a full refund or moving their reservation to another available site with no service charge.

News and information regarding flooding impacts to Nashville District recreation areas will be made available on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps, and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.

PRESS RELEASE from the the American Battlefield Trust, March 14, 2019:

Link: https://www.battlefields.org/

Volunteers throughout Tennessee are teaming up with the American Battlefield Trust to aid in the maintenance and restoration of 13 Volunteer State battlefields and historic sites as part of Park Day, an annual nationwide, hands-on preservation event. Since its inception in 1996, Park Day has attracted volunteers of all ages and abilities bound by their dedication to serving their communities.

Park Day is scheduled for Saturday, April 6, 2019, when Tennessee volunteers will be joined by thousands of fellow participants across the country in cleaning up and revitalizing 160 historic sites in 32 states.

Activities are chiefly outdoor projects that range from raking leaves and collecting trash to painting and gardening. Volunteers will receive T-shirts, and some sites will provide lunch or refreshments. A local historian may also be on hand to talk about the unique role of the site in our national story. Starting times, and occasionally event dates, may vary at each site. Tennessee volunteers interested in participating in Park Day are encouraged to contact the individual sites listed below.

Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, Fort Oglethorpe, 8:45 a.m.
Contact: Will Wilson at will_wilson@nps.gov
Volunteers will help with painting around the park. There will be a ranger guided tour of the battlefield at 2pm. Water and snacks will be provided.

Fort Dickerson, Knoxville, 9:00 a.m.
Contact: Eric Wayland at ericwayland@gmail.com
Volunteers will help with clearing brush, landscaping, trash removal, raking and cleaning. Water and snacks will be provided.

Fort Donelson National Battlefield, Dover,
Contact: Debbie Austin at Deborah_austin@nps.gov
Volunteers will help with landscaping, planting, trail maintenance and trash removal.

Fort Germantown Park, Germantown, 8:30 a.m.
Contact: Gary Douglas at gbdouglas@comcast.net
Volunteers will help with clearing brush and trash removal. Water and snacks will be provided.

Fort Pillow State Historic Park, Henning, 9:00 a.m.
Contact: Tyson Weller at tyson.weller@tn.gov
Volunteers will help with clearing brush, installing markers/interpretive signs, trail maintenance, trash removal and helping to prepare food for volunteers. A tour of the earthworks and a history of the park as it relates to the battle will be available. A meal will be provided for volunteers.

Johnsonville State Historic Park, New Johnsonville, 9:00 a.m.
Contact: Bob Holliday at Bob.Holliday@tn.gov
Volunteers will help with clearing brush, landscaping, trail maintenance and trash removal. Water will be provided.

Lotz House Museum, Franklin, 10:00 a.m.
Contact: JT Thompson at jtt@lotzhouse.com
Volunteers will help with painting different areas of the museum. Water and snacks will be provided.

Mabry-Hazen House, Knoxville, 9:00 a.m.
Contact: Patrick Hollis at director@mabryhazen.com
Volunteers will help with garden maintenance and cleaning flower beds. Water and snacks will be provided.

Old Gray Cemetery, Knoxville, 9:00 a.m.
Contact: Ruthie Kuhlman at info@oldgraycemetery.org
Volunteers will help with clearing brush, trash removal, raking and picking up tree limbs. Water and snacks will be provided.

Parker’s Crossroads Battlefield, Wildersville, 9:00 a.m.
Contact: Jim Weaver at jnweaver@bellsouth.net
Volunteers will help with building or repairing fences, clearing brush, landscaping, planting, trash removal, cleaning of interpretation signs and removing small branches from rails and tour stops. Rangers will present a short talk of the battle of Parker’s Crossroads. Water and snacks will be provided. (Note: This Park Day site is holding its event on Wednesday, March 20, 2019)

Shy’s Hill Battlefield/Redoubt #1 – Battle of Nashville, Nashville, 10:00 a.m.
Contact: John Allyn at john.allyn@comcast.net
Volunteers will help with clearing brush, landscaping and trash removal. A battlefield tour will be available, and water will be provided for volunteers.

Stones River National Battlefield, Murfreesboro, 8:30 a.m.
Contact: James Lewis at jim_b_lewis@nps.gov
Volunteers will help with clearing brush, trash removal and litter pick-up. A walking tour of Fortress Rosecrans will be offered after lunch. A meal will be provided. (Note: This Park Day site is holding its event on Saturday, April 13, 2019)

Britton Lane Battlefield, Denmark, 9:00 a.m.
Contact: Jim Weaver at jnweaver@bellsouth.net
Volunteers will help with clearing bush, trail maintenance, trash removal and removing small branches in Methodist Cemetery. Water and snacks will be provided for volunteers. A cannon firing at memorial service will occur on Sunday morning. (Note: This Park Day site is holding its event on Saturday, May 25, 2019)

For a complete list of participating Park Day sites and more information, visit www.battlefields.org/parkday. Volunteers can share their Park Day participation online using #ParkDay2019.

The American Battlefield Trust is dedicated to preserving America’s hallowed battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters today. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has protected more than 50,000 acres associated with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War. Learn more at www.battlefields.org.

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, March 12, 2019:

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has acquired nearly 400 acres as an addition to the 440-acre Piney Falls State Natural Area in Rhea County.

“This significant acquisition, which contains stunning views of the ridge and valley of the Cumberland Plateau, provides additional protection for Upper Piney Falls,” said Roger McCoy, director of TDEC’s Division of Natural Areas. “We are grateful to our nonprofit partners for their support in making even more of Tennessee’s incredible viewshed accessible to visitors and rural residents alike.”

A parking area and hiking trails are currently provided at Piney Falls. The acquisition adds acreage that could lead to future trail development.

The acquisition transfers the land to the state from The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee (TNC). The Tucker Foundation assisted with the purchase through a grant to TNC, and the nonprofit Open Space Institute (OSI) provided funds toward the acquisition.

This latest partnership with OSI and TNC provides another example of the generosity of non-government partners helping accomplish TDEC’s mission.

“Piney Falls State Natural Area is more than a gorgeous place to experience the outdoors; it is also considered a wildlife habitat priority in Tennessee’s State Wildlife Action Plan,” said Terry Cook, TNC’s Tennessee state director. “When TDEC asked for our help to save additional land there, we jumped at the chance. This project is an excellent example of how private funding sources can leverage state funding to achieve conservation results for people and nature.”

“The conservation of Piney Falls demonstrates the importance of protecting land for wildlife facing an uncertain future,” said Peter Howell, executive vice president at OSI. “We commend The Nature Conservancy for acting quickly to purchase the property so it could be conserved for future generations.”

Piney Falls is a pristine forest land featuring creeks, waterfalls and old growth forest. It is also recognized by the United States Department of Interior as a National Natural Landmark. Piney Falls consists of deep gorges carved from the Little Piney River and Soak Creek Designated State Scenic River.

Designated in 1973, Piney Falls is one of Tennessee’s 85 State Natural Areas. For more information, visit https://www.tn.gov/environment/program-areas/na-natural-areas.html.