PRESS RELEASE from Wildwood Resort & Marina, Granville, Tennessee:

River Bank Cleanup and Open House:
Saturday, February 23rd, 2019, 11am – 3pm
7316 Granville Highway
Granville, Tennessee
www.visitwildwood.com

See what’s cooking at Wildwood over the winter! Hot food and drink for volunteers
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Back by popular demand, Wildwood Resort and Marina’s mid-winter Adopt-a-Stream River Bank Clean-up and Open House is scheduled for February, 23rd, 2019.

The Adopt-a-Stream program is sponsored by the Cumberland River Compact in Middle Tennessee. Members of the program care for regional rivers and streams by organizing trash pick-ups, river access projects, and educational events. Wildwood Resort and Marina has adopted a 1-mile stretch of the Cumberland River between Indian Creek and Martin’s Creek on Cumberland River at Cordell Hull Lake. Detailed information on the Adopt-a-Stream program Middle Tennessee, the health of our local rivers and streams, and how you can get involved can be found at the regional CRC Adopt-a-Stream website (http://cumberlandriverbasin.org/).

First Annual Wildwood Resort & Marina Adopt-a-Stream River Shore Cleanup and Community Open House

Wildwood’s first annual Adopt-a-Stream shore cleanup and open house was held in February, 2018. Despite a very gloomy forecast that weekend, sixty hearty souls showed up to fan out over the adopted stretch of river, armed with heavy duty trash bags and work gloves, to remove the trash. Volunteers picked up over 100 bags of garbage along the shoreline that day.

GARBAGE GONE!

Following the cleanup, volunteers celebrated what turned out to be a balmy, partly sunny day with homemade chili and drinks on the porch at Timberloft Lakeside before hearing a talk on the quality of river life on this stretch of the Cumberland as well as information on Wildwood’s developing plans for the upcoming recreational season.

The response of the community was so remarkable the Adopt-a-Stream program has awarded a blue ribbon prize to the Wildwood Community for attracting the most volunteers across all of Middle Tennessee, including Nashville, in all of 2018. CRC’s annual awards celebration is scheduled on Wednesday February 27th, 2019 at its headquarters in the Bridge Building downtown Nashville, below the Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge. For more information, contact natasha@wildwoodresorttn.com.

MANY THANKS to those who joined in the effort to keep our shores free from garbage. The organizers hope that you will join in again this year and bring your friends for another great effort!

PRESS RELEASE from the State of Tennessee, January 23, 2019:

LINK: https://www.tn.gov/environment/news/2019/1/23/beecher-wallace-homestead-added-to-state-park-system.html

The Beecher Wallace Homestead in the Dog Cove area near Fall Creek Falls State Park has been added to Tennessee’s public lands, announced today by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and The Land Trust for Tennessee.

The historic homestead, which lies approximately 20 miles north of Fall Creek Falls State Park, will be managed by park staff and open to the public.

The 4.8-acre homestead will serve as a connection point for visitors to the Cumberland Plateau, which features nearby recreational areas including Lost Creek and Virgin Falls State Natural Areas.

“This will be a valuable addition that has natural and historical value,” said Brock Hill, deputy commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. “We’re glad to have yet another aspect of this area for our visitors to enjoy.”

The homestead addition is located on the southern end of Dog Cove and features a barn, sheds and a farmhouse originally constructed in the late 1800s. Tennessee State Parks will protect the integrity of the home to help interpret the area’s history to visitors.

“Here you’ll find caves, sinks, seeps, creeks and bluffs that all provide tremendous scenic and biological diversity,” said Tennessee State Parks’ Stuart Carroll, a park manager who oversees Lost Creek and Virgin Falls State Natural Areas in addition to Dog Cove. “This homestead will also give visitors a glimpse into the pioneer life of the late 1800s.”

The property adjoins 750 acres acquired by the state in recent years with the assistance of The Land Trust, Open Space Institute and Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation.

“Dog Cove is a magical place,” said Liz McLaurin, president and CEO of The Land Trust. “The conservation of this swath of land is an example of the way, over time, land trusts and partners can build relationships that stitch together special places for the enjoyment of Tennesseans and visitors now and forever.”

Dog Cove is a day-use area with eight miles of trails known for its creeks. A large portion of Dog Cove was privately owned by descendants of the Wallace family for more than 100 years. Members of the family worked with the state and The Land Trust to make the land accessible to the public and bring it under state protection.

“This place has meant a lot to my family for generations,” said former landowner Tom Lee. “We are grateful to know others will have the opportunity to enjoy it and that it will always be cared for.”

This conservation success is now part of a network of protected lands across the Plateau, including Fall Creek Falls State Park, Lost Creek State Natural Area, Virgin Falls State Natural Area, Bledsoe State Forest, and Bridgestone-Firestone Centennial Wilderness Wildlife Management Area. Adjoining those are the Bridgestone Nature Reserve at Chestnut Mountain and Latimer High Adventure Reservation. All together this corridor accounts for roughly 60,000 contiguous acres of significant protected forested habitat.

Crews are beginning to embark upon construction of the new lodge and restaurant at Tennessee’s most popular state park.

Regional politicians and state government officials gathered this week at Fall Creek Falls for a ground-breaking ceremony at the lake construction zone at Fall Creek Falls. The planned new 98,000-square-foot will be built to “to reflect the natural setting of the park,” according to a news release from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, which oversees state parks.

Breaking ground at Fall Creek Falls State Park are, from left, are Erik Pyle of Bell Construction; Bledsoe County Mayor Gregg Ridley; Lt. Gov. Randy McNally; Rep. Cameron Sexton; TDEC Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill; Deputy Gov. Jim Henry; Ann McGuaran, state architect; Rep. Kelly Keisling; Rep. Ron Travis; General Services Deputy Commissioner John Hull; Ron Lustig of Earl Swensson Associates; and Park Manager Jacob Young of Fall Creek Falls State Park.

The new hotel and lake-facing restaurant will include “three floors of visitor space,” along with “indoor and outdoor gathering areas with larger meeting rooms for conferences.”

The projects designers have said the inn will “provide spacious views of the lake and of the park’s natural forest that will evoke long-lasting memories for visitors.”

Walking trails around the lodge will connect up with other trails that wind off into the remote reaches of the park.

“At Fall Creek Falls, the new inn and restaurant are forecast to generate $278,000 per year in sales and occupancy taxes, a growth of $90,000 per year compared to revenue from the previous facility,” according to the TDEC press release. “Short-term, construction is expected to bring in an estimated $14.7 million in taxable spending to the area, along with more than 100 construction jobs.”

Construction is anticipated finish up in 2020.

The Fall Creek Falls project, which also includes other upgrades to existing park facilities and infrastructure,  is part of more than $175 million in capital projects appropriated for state parks since Republican Gov. Bill Haslam took office, the TDEC release noted. Haslam is finishing up his second and final term as Tennessee’s highest elected official.

“This reinvestment in Tennessee’s most famous state park is indicative of similar reinvestments made from Memphis to Kingsport,” said Brock Hill, deputy commissioner TDEC. “Over $175 million in capital reinvestment is already paying back dividends through increased visitation, customer satisfaction, and revenue growth.”

PRESS RELEASE from the Nashville District Offics of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jan. 10, 2019:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Jan. 10, 2019) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District is seeking individuals interested in 2019 Park Attendant contract positions across Tennessee and Kentucky.

A total of 21 contracts across the Cumberland River Basin are available for quote submission at seven Corps projects listed below.

  • J. Percy Priest Lake: Anderson Road Day Use, Cook Day Use, Seven Points Campground and Anderson Road Campground
  •  Old Hickory Lake: Cedar Creek Campground and Old Hickory Beach
  •  Lake Barkley: Bumpus Mills, Canal, Eureka, and Hurricane Creek Campgrounds
  • Cordell Hull Lake: Salt Lick and Defeated Creek Campgrounds
  • Center Hill Lake: Ragland Bottom, Long Branch and Floating Mill Campgrounds
  • Dale Hollow Lake: Dale Hollow Dam and Willow Grove Campgrounds
  • Lake Cumberland: Cumberland Point and Fall Creek Campgrounds

Gate attendants play a vital role at Corps of Engineers lakes by staffing the entrance fee booth, providing information to park visitors, assisting Corps staff, posting shelter reservations, maintaining quiet hours, and operating computer based park management system. For additional contract requirements performed by park attendant contractors, refer to the bid packet and work statement.

A full hookup campsite including water, sewer and electrical service is provided for the park attendant contractors selected. Contractors must provide their own self-contained camping unit and are required to reside in the campground on days of employment.

Prospective contractors must be registered in the System for Award Management and obtain a Unique Entity Identifier number (formerly DUNS) at www.sam.gov before submitting a quote. Solicitation is tentatively scheduled to be released Jan. 15, 2019 online at www.fbo.gov and can be located by entering W912P5-19 in the keyword/solicitation number field.

If you are unable to obtain the bid package from the internet or you have questions regarding a contract, please contact James Purcell, contract specialist, at james.w.purell@usace.army.mil or 615-736-7674.

The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District 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.

Bygone days and ways live in memories alone

Standing atop Center Hill Dam or Hurricane Bridge today, it’s easy to forget that homestead activity and rural enterprise once flourished along the hillsides and throughout river bottom lands now submerged under the lake’s expansive waterline.

But across Tennessee during the great federal dam-building decades of the 20th Century, old manners and modes of living were drowned out and washed away as reservoir waters rose behind hydroelectric impoundments that still serve as monuments to modern engineering and industrial technology.

Prior to the dam’s construction, which was completed in 1948, much of the area around the Caney Fork “was subject to intensive family-type farming of money crops, such as corn and tobacco, which involved hillside plowing with mules,” notes the Army Corps of Engineers’ Center Hill Lake Master Plan. However, since the dam’s completion, “farming in the Center Hill Lake area has steadily declined.”

Center Hill Dam under construction on the Caney Fork River in DeKalb County, 1949. (Tennessee State Library Photo Archive)

Local historians and aging residents who lived through the events recall that it was a time of gloom and upheaval for many.

“By the end of 1948, all of the homes and farms were cleared out, torn down and covered with water,” wrote the authors of “Under the Lake,” a 2016 coffee table book of historic images, remembrances and genealogy from the region prior to creation of Center Hill reservoir. “People who had lived there in their lifetime would never be able to see their homes again.”

DeKalb County historian Thomas G. Webb, who wrote a book about local history for the Memphis State University Press that was published in 1986, recalled that by the end of World War II “most of (the inhabitants) had accepted the idea that they had to leave their farms, homes, schools and churches.”

“A few, however, were bitterly opposed to moving and remained in their homes until the dam was completed and the water was literally in their front yards. Some in the Center Hill area relocated in DeKalb County, but many moved to other counties, and the county lost 4,000 people between 1940 and 1950,” Webb reported.

Rosemary Ponte of Cookeville, whose family owned property where today sits the Appalachian Center for Craft, said it pains her even now to recall that “very sad time” when families in DeKalb County were forced off their homelands.

“I still feel bad about it,” said Ponte, who was born in 1931. “They took so much more land than they needed. I just hated to see the people so displaced like that, after generations and generations of their families living there.”

Recreation an Unanticipated Boon

It may seem surprising now, with Center Hill Lake a prominent recreation destination in Middle Tennessee, but leisure and sporting activities weren’t considered important to the dam-project planners.

The Center Hill Lake Master Plan even notes that “recreation was not originally an authorized function of the project” — although surrounding lands were later acquired from property owners and “recreation facilities constructed to assure unencumbered access to the lake for the general public.”

In the beginning, though, they scoffed at the idea of recreation.

“The first few years that Center Hill Lake was backed up after the lake was there, they didn’t even want to talk about recreation,” said Carl Halfacre of Baxter, whose father worked on construction of the dam. “‘If you mentioned recreation to the Corps of Engineers, they would insult you.” They would say, “That dam is for flood control and hydroelectric power — we don’t furnish recreation.’ The Corps didn’t feel it was their job to spend millions of dollars so people could have a good time.”

Nevertheless, by the middle of the 1950s, people did indeed start showing up to fish and boat and swim on Center Hill Lake, said Halfacre, who in 2014 retired from serving as managing ranger at Edgar Evins State Park for nearly two decades. At about that time, picnic areas and campgrounds started popping up, he said.

Webb noted that some who lived in the area in fact began anticipating recreational benefits even before the dam was finished.

“Those who hoped to benefit from the increased tourist trade looked forward to the completion of the dam,” he wrote.

So if you’re one of the more than three million people who annually takes advantage or accesses Center Hill Lake’s vast recreation opportunities, you might do well to spend a moment and reflect on the reality that many people gave up homes and lifeways for the lake to exist — and many would for the rest of their years suffer broken-heartedness and resentment as a result.

“There used to be a lot more life down below the water’s surface — and it was more than just fish,” said Ria Baker, one of the authors of “Under the Lake.”

PRESS RELEASE the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee State Parks are offering discounts of 25 percent off cabin and room rental rates between December 1 and February 28.

“We are entering a special time of the year to be with loved ones, and we hope these discounts will help everyone enjoy our state parks,” said Brock Hill, deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. “Our state parks have a lot to offer visitors year-round, and these discounts can help make for a great winter getaway.”

The discounts create a perfect opportunity, for example, to stay lakeside at Pickwick Landing, see eagles at Reelfoot Lake or enjoy a warm fire on a snowy evening at Roan Mountain.

The special winter rates apply to hundreds of cabins and inn rooms throughout the state.

In order to obtain the discounts, visitors are asked to complete a sign-up form online to let the state parks know they’re interested in the winter promotion. After sign-up, an email response will give details on how to secure the discount.

Visitors can sign up for the winter discount at this link: https://tnstateparks.com/about/promotion-details/winter-promotion

Information provided when submitting the form will be used only for official Tennessee State Parks communications. Tennessee State Parks do not sell or distribute personal information from the emails.

All Tennessee State Parks are open for recreational activities during the winter.

Conservation carve-outs added to Upper Caney Watershed

The rural lands that make up White County have long been recognized and appreciated for their remarkable geological features and timeless sense of hardy frontier vitality.

Over the last several decades, more and more people from outside the area have come to love and admire White County’s abundance of beauty, wildlife and recreation potential, especially southeast of Sparta, where the Cumberland Plateau fuses with the Highland Rim in the cave-pocked boulder-strewn realm of Virgin Falls.

In his essential 1999 survey of scenic regional hikes and Tennessee cultural heritage, “The Historic Cumberland Plateau; An Explorer’s Guide,” outdoor writer Russ Manning observed, “The unique features of this area are the waterfalls that plunge from great heights and disappear into the ground.”

“Big Laurel Creek flows over Big Branch Falls and farther downstream washes over Big Laurel Falls before disappearing in an underground cave behind the falls. Farther in the wilderness a small creek running out of Sheep Cave cascades 50 or 60 feet until it disappears into a hole in the ground,” wrote Manning. “But the most spectacular is Virgin Falls, which emerges from a cave, runs about 50 feet, drops 110 feet, and disappears into the rocks at the bottom. The water from all these waterfalls apparently runs through the ground, finally draining into the Caney Fork River, which flows through Scott Gulf to the south.”

Courting Conservation-Friendly Commerce

Numerous groups and individuals have devoted time, energy and resources toward shielding the mostly untamed domain from large-scale commercial and residential development, or environmentally destructive industrial land uses.

Groups that have donated time, money, land, labor or expertise toward conserving the Caney Fork watershed include the Tennessee Parks & Greenways Foundation, the Open Space Institute, the Land Trust for Tennessee, the Nature Conservancy, the Conservation Fund,  the J.M.Huber Corp., Bridgestone Americas, as well as state parks “friends” groups.

State government also has partnered with private-sector nonprofits and businesses to promote “stewardship of thousands of acres of ecologically significant areas in the Cumberland Plateau with the goals of protection, preservation and public recreation,” said Kim Schofinski, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

Improving the public’s access to the many recreational opportunities the rugged lands and moving waters provide will hopefully open navigable pathways toward future economic growth in an area where nagging poverty has for generations presented a snag.

Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau is home to many struggling rural communities that “need sustaining and need to be resilient,” said Brock Hill, deputy commissioner for TDEC’s Bureau of Parks & Conservation.

Inaugural Virgin Falls Thru-Hike Expedition. Pictured at left are those who participated on Sept. 15 in the first organized hike along the newly opened 9-mile Lost Creek to Virgin Falls thru-hike trail. Left to right: Bob Ragland, Michael Faehl, Lisa Faehl, Mark Engler, Ranger Stuart Carroll, Gretchen Weir, Phil Hodge, Greg Geer and TennGreen’s Steven Walsh, who organized the event.

Hill, who formerly served as mayor of neighboring Cumberland County, asserted that “place-based economic development” not only stimulates job creation and small-business growth by drawing in visitors, it “adds a tremendous level to the quality of life for the people who already live here in this area.”

Stuart Carroll, park manager at the Virgins Falls State Natural Area, figures there’s a pretty basic and reliable formula for upping tourist visitation to a place as unique and spectacular as White County’s section of the Cumberland Plateau.

“If you open up access to the public — and provide good parking lots, good trails and good maps — then it will pay dividends to the local economy,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to emulate Cummins Falls (near Cookeville in Jackson County), because that place gets hammered (from overuse), but who could have imagined the spike in sales tax collections they’ve seen in that area because of the added traffic since that park opened?”

Long an advocate for better utilizing the area’s natural potential to lure tourists and snare tourist dollars, Sparta-White County Chamber of Commerce president Marvin Bullock noted that “Virgin Falls is already somewhat of a national draw.”

But opportunities for outdoor recreation are now “growing leaps and bounds”, said Bullock. And the area’s adventure-recreation profile will only increase as conservation, trail-building and public-access efforts continue, he predicts.

“It will make it even more of a national draw because there are a lot more beautiful waterfalls up through there,” said Bullock. “There are going to be miles and miles and miles more trails in the future.”

Among the most recent additions is a new section of trail from Lost Creek to Virgin Falls — thus creating a new nine-mile thru-hike and an additional trailhead and parking to access Virgin Falls. The Lost Creek State Natural Area, which was donated for public use by the James Rylander Family, was used as a backdrop in Disney’s 1994 “The Jungle Book.”

Bullock is pleased there’s common agreement that “we are not looking to build a resort park,” or establish other high-impact developments.

“We want to maybe see some wilderness campsites and that type of thing, but nobody wants to see the area built up into something like Fairfield or Lake Tansi in Cumberland County,” Bullock said.

Of course, White County and Sparta businesses are always happy to accommodate daytrippers from those communities who want to come have a magnificent look-see at the dazzling western edge of the plateau, Bullock is quick to add.

Some counties are tempted to develop large wilderness tracts into upscale residential developments in order to increased property tax rolls, said Bullock. White County, by contrast, “gets to have its cake and eat it too — trail development attracts tourists and increases sales tax revenue,” he said.

“Rural, at-risk White County will see increase in revenue, yet the population will still have access to some of their favorite waterfalls and scenic overlooks,” said Bullock.

Communication and Collaboration

More than 100 people with ties or interest in White County conservation efforts gathered Aug. 25 on a fertile grassy plain known as “Big Bottom” along the upper Caney Fork to celebrate some notable recent victories in securing and adding new landscapes to the now nearly 60,000-acre “Mid-Cumberland Wilderness Conservation Corridor.”

Over the summer, properties of 582 acres and 76 acres were formally incorporated into the preservation zone as a result of donors, landowners and various conservation-focused intermediaries working together to acquire the properties.

And back in April, Bridgestone Americas donated all 5,763 acres of its richly forested and biologically diverse Chestnut Mountain property to the Nature Conservancy of Tennessee. It contains the highest point of elevation in White County. The donation was part of an innovative and intriguing project to allow the Nature Conservancy to “manage a carbon sequestration project on the property that will offset the carbon emissions of the Bridgestone Tower, the company’s corporate headquarters in downtown Nashville.”

Leaders of conservation groups and state agencies delivered remarks emphasizing a consistent theme during the event — that a vast and ecologically indispensable playground for preservation-minded outdoor enthusiasts is emerging, and the cooperative efforts to bring it into being have been genuinely historic in significance.

Steve Law, director of the Tennessee Parks & Greenways Foundation, or TennGreen, said the latest 600-plus acres of land acquired represents “a significant conservation achievement” that will help enhance and protect Caney Fork water quality in perpetuity.

“Geographically, this property joins the Bridgestone Firestone Centennial Wilderness Wildlife Management Area to the west, it adjoins Lost Creek State Natural Area to the north, and is bounded on the south by the Caney Fork River,” said Law. “From the perspective of conservation value, this property increases available migratory habitat for rare species, including the federally endangered Indiana and gray bats.”

Law contends that effective future conservation success efforts will increasingly involve cultivating and maintaining networks of voluntary collaborations among an ever-growing array of interests, individuals and entities.

“Collaboration is a fundamental element to TennGreen’s core mission,” said Law.

TennGreen has for two decades been raising money and working with landowners to acquire and protect tracts that hold or are adjacent to “natural treasures” in Tennessee.

Joel Houser, Chattanooga-based Southeast field coordinator for the Open Space Institute, reiterated the point. “I don’t think we can stress enough the importance of partnerships,” he said.

Houser, whose New York-headquartered organization promotes the preservation of geologically and ecologically unique landscapes across North America, described the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee as “a globally significant place.”

“There are species here that live nowhere else in the world — and there are species that were forced here from the last ice age, and have persisted here ever since,” he said. “There are species here that are disjunct — the populations are disjunct from larger native ranges that may be along the coastal plain or the southern Blue Ridge or further northward at higher elevations.”

In addition to the environmental benefits, Houser said preserving Cumberland wildlands in the 21st Century “will provide recreationists a respite from the modern world, and also provides hunters and their families food.”

“It’s not just for the wildlife, the lichens, the mosses, the flowers and the birds, it is for people, too, and people are a part of the ecosystem — of this ecosystem and all ecosystems,” he said.

Tying It All Together

The growing system of trails in the area is envisioned to one day connect the Virgin Falls State Natural Area with the crown-jewel of Tennessee’s state parks system, Fall Creek Falls, and in the process tie in Scott’s Gulf, Lost Creek, Bledsoe State Forest, Bee Creek and the Boy Scout’s Latimer High Adventure Reservation.

“Linking Lost Creek and Virgin Falls has long been a goal for Tennessee State Parks to provide more recreational opportunities for visitors and protect more critical habitat,” said TDEC’s Hill.

State wildlife resources agency director Ed Carter observed that the area has “one of the highest concentrations of greatest-conservation-need species of anywhere in Tennessee.”

For Stuart Carroll, the Virgin Falls park manager, progress made over the past few years represent a gratifying culmination to his 30-plus year career.

Land-protection endeavors along the Cumberland Plateau date back to the early 1900s, but in the past 20 years the acreage acquired from willing sellers or set voluntarily aside for conservation and recreation has more than doubled, he said.

Efforts by nonprofits and landholding private corporations to preserve properties and open them for public recreation are especially important in the Southeastern United States, where “public land has not historically been a really large part of the landscape,” Carroll said.

“So it is very fulfilling to see the acreage added to the public land base so that people can get out and enjoy the recreation the lands provide — and at the same time we can take care of both the resources and the history for future generations,” he said.

Carroll has himself been instrumental in negotiating a number of key land acquisitions and conservation set-asides, not to mention providing the down-and-dirty hands-on labor required to blaze, build and maintain enjoyably traversable hiking trails. He’s also co-author of a book of trail and landscape reviews called “Hiking Tennessee: A Guide to the State’s Greatest Hiking Adventures.”

The most rewarding aspects of working around places like Fall Creek Falls and Virgin Falls is preserving not just the natural aspects, but also the historical and cultural artifacts that the land holds, said Carroll — and in turn teaching youngsters to appreciate the region’s extraordinary legacy.

“It is great to see so many people pulling together to make these type of projects happen,” he said.

Press Release from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Sept. 4, 2018:

NASHVILLE – Hundreds of cyclists from nearly 30 different states will converge on the Cumberland Plateau on Sept. 15-20 for Tennessee State Parks’ annual Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee (BRAT).

The 29th annual ride will wind riders through some of Tennessee’s most scenic and charming communities, including Pikeville, Spencer, McMinnville, Winchester and Lynchburg. Each day will feature loop rides returning to overnight at Fall Creek Falls and Tims Ford State Parks. Riders will pass key attractions along the way including Rock Island State Park, Cumberland Caverns and Jack Daniel’s Distillery.

Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee, or BRAT, is an annual road cycling tour of TN state parks.

“Every year we introduce riders to different state parks and different communities in Tennessee so they can experience how special these places are,” said Brock Hill, deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. “For nearly thirty years we have hosted cyclists and their families among the beauty of Tennessee State Parks and this year’s ride won’t disappoint.”

The ride is non-competitive and suitable for a range of skill levels. Riders can register for a one, two, three or six-day ride through Sept. 9. Registration begins at $85 for a one-day trip and $510 for the full 380-mile trip. The fee includes a fully supported route, camping at two state park basecamps, hot showers, meals (breakfast and supper), live entertainment and interpretive programming as well as an event t-shirt. Cabin and RV campground lodging is also available for an additional fee.

The BRAT is sponsored by Tennessee State Parks and benefits the Tennessee Park Rangers Association, the Cumberland Trail State Scenic Trail, Fall Creek Falls State Park and Tims Ford State Park.

More information on the ride, including a map of the route and registration instructions, can be found at www.thebrat.org.

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE UPPER CUMBERLAND TOURISM ASSOCIATION, AUGUST 28, 2018:

Level of visitor spending in Upper Cumberland climbs to all-time high

Nashville – Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Kevin Triplett announced today Tennessee tourism’s direct domestic and international travel expenditures reached a new all-time record high of $20.7 billion in 2017, up 6.3 percent over the previous year, as reported by the U.S. Travel Association. The announcement was made at the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum.

For the 12th consecutive year, tourism topped $1 billion in state and local sales tax revenue, reaching $1.8 billion. That marks a 7.6 percent increase over 2016, higher than the national growth of travel related state tax revenues of 4.6 percent. Tourism also generated 184,300 jobs for Tennesseans, a 3.1 percent growth year over year.

The 2017 direct domestic and international travel expenditure for the Upper Cumberland region reached an all time high of $420.9 Mil. Overall the 14 counties in the Upper Cumberland saw a 6.3% increase in their tourism spending. Two of our counties see more than $100 Million – Putnam – $132.03 Mil and Cumberland – $121.54 Mil.

Chambers of Commerce in the smaller UC counties operate on very limited budgets and they cooperate with all the 14 counties and the Upper Cumberland Tourism Association on joint promotions.

“It is important to understand that travel & tourism creates jobs, drives economic growth and helps build better societies. The Upper Cumberland of Tennessee is a prime example of this, as our region and its natural beauty is expected to attract more tourists in the coming years” said Ruth Dyal, director of the Upper Cumberland Tourism Association. It will be vital for Upper Cumberland communities and private sectors to work together with the public to ensure that tourism growth is sustainable, inclusive and benefits everyone.”

Commissioner Kevin Triplett said. “The authenticity and Southern hospitality from our communities and partners gives visitors an unbeatable experience and inspires them to return. The numbers show Tennessee is a destination of choice for visitors around the world. However, we would not have these numbers if not for the capital investments, renovations and dedication made by tourism partners across the state to deliver great experiences that create wonderful memories.”

To view the full report, click here. For more information, contact Ruth Dyal, executive director for the Upper Cumberland Tourism Association at 931-537-6347 or by email at uctourism@gmail.com.

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, August 28, 2018:

36th annual event draws country’s best players to Tennessee state park

HILHAM – Standing Stone State Park will host the National Rolley Hole Marbles Championship and Festival on Saturday, Sept. 15, drawing some of the country’s best players to Tennessee where they will match wit and skills in what is known as the ‘Super Bowl of marbles’. In its 36th year, the event will feature world-class marble competitions, live music, marble-making exhibits and demonstrations, food vendors and much more.

“Standing Stone is the only state park in the nation with a marble yard, mainly due to the fact that some of the best players hail from Tennessee’s Clay County,” said Park Ranger Shawn Hughes. “The Championship is the most challenging marble tournament, where only the finest players dare to compete. It’s been a great event for the park and the local community, as it’s the only one of its kind in the world.”

Co-hosted by the Friends of Standing Stone State Park, the free festival will kick off at 8 a.m. Registration is required to compete in the marble tournament and closes on Sept. 5.

The musical lineup includes bluegrass and old-time groups Bill and the Belles, Clearview Bluegrass, Kentucky Just Us, Leonard Anderson, Phillip Steinmetz & His Sunny Tennesseans, Uncle Shuffelo & His Haint Hollow Hootenanny, and the Volunteer Statesman. 2018 event sponsors include Honest Abe Log Homes, Tennessee Arts Commission, Union Bank & Trust Company, Charlie’s Woodshop, Woodmen of the World, The Building Center, Southern Landscape Supply, and Twin Lakes Petroleum.

Rolley Hole is a folk game similar to croquet. It will be played by the rules of the National Rolley Hole Marbles Championship, on a dirt yard which measures 40 x 25 feet. The strategy comes by determining the best way to keep opponents from making the hole, which often requires skillful hard shots against their marbles, sending them ricocheting across the yard.

Standing Stone State Park is located 10 miles north of Livingston, Tenn., just off of Highway 52 near Celina and covers nearly 1,000 acres on the Cumberland Plateau of north-central Tennessee. For more information about the festival and Standing Stone State Park, contact (931) 823-6347 or visit https://tnstateparks.com/parks/standing-stone.