State park boasts splendiferous waterfall, swimming hole

One way or another, Cummins Falls State Park leaves you breathless.

Located in southern Jackson County just northwest of Cookeville, this aquatic getaway ranks as Tennessee’s eighth largest waterfall. The site also lays claim to being one of the 10 best swimming holes in the U.S., according to Travel and Leisure magazine.

It’s a mere 12 miles off of Interstate 40 (Exit 280), but be warned this is no place to wear flip-flops. You’ll have to cautiously make your way down the trail to the cool waters of Blackburn Fork State Scenic River and then hike along its streambed before you reach the gorgeous gorge.

Hikers and swimmers alike have a ball at Cummins Falls State Park, which boasts the eighth largest waterfall in Tennessee and one of the Top-10 swimming holes in the U.S. It’s a vigorous descent by foot to the falls on the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River, which has served as a scenic spot and swimming hole for residents of Jackson and Putnam counties for more than a century.
(Photo by Ken Beck)

There you will spy the magnificent 75-foot-high falls, which will take your breath away. Later, as you scramble back up the trail, you may find yourself once more gasping for air. It will be worth the effort. Cummins Falls is a purely natural Tennessee treasure that you can see, hear, touch, smell and taste (although we don’t recommend you sip the water).

Park manager Ray Cutcher is a 43-year veteran of Tennessee State Parks, and he’s has been at Cummins Falls since the day after the state purchased it.

“The coolest feature is the waterfall and the plunge-pool below,” said Cutcher. “The waterfall creates the magnificent swimming hole below. The ledges beneath to climb up on make it such a unique experience that people keep on coming here. In addition it’s a wild and rugged area so you have to take a pretty good hike.”

Cummins Falls was dedicated as the Tennessee’s 54th state park May 22, 2012.

Steep Soggy Slog

The ranger noted that visitors should expect “a rugged, strenuous hike that will be rocky and slippery. Sometimes a walking stick will help while crossing the stream. You will walk through water so wear footwear, like an old pair of tennis shoes.”

He also advises that you bring water or sports drinks (no alcohol allowed) and cautions this may not be the best place to tote babies or small children.

“On a typical weekend day we can draw 5,000 to 9,000. We have become such a popular place that in the very near future we’re going to have to limit the number of people in a day,” said Cutcher, adding that likely would occur in 2020.

As evidence of its growing popularity, the park saw its attendance double this past March from March a year ago.

Hours for the day-use park are 8 a.m.-6 p.m., but the gorge area closes at 5 p.m., so those at the waterfall must start walking out at 5 p.m. in order to depart the park by 6. Visitors will find the parking lot, restrooms, trailheads and designated picnic area above the falls. An overlook of the waterfall is nearby and can be reached by foot on a trail about a half-mile long. ADA access is available upon request.

Cummins Falls State Park manager Ray Cutcher has been at the park since the day after the state purchased it in February 2012. He alerts visitors that the trail to the waterfall presents “a rugged, strenuous hike that will be rocky and slippery.” Some 5,000 to 9,000 people visit the park on a typical weekend day.
(Photo by Ken Beck)

The route descending directly to the falls is about one mile along uneven terrain with tree roots and other hazards, and part of the hike includes walking upstream through the river, thus it can be slippery.

On a serious note, there have been five drowning here since the park opened. The plunge pool, a natural area with no manmade features, is 15 feet deep in places. There are no lifeguards, thus swimming is at your own risk.

It is also important to pay attention to the weather as sudden heavy rainfalls can cause flash floods. Such an event occurred in July 2017, causing two drownings and stranding 48 people for part of a day. Heavy rains also may require the pool and the hike to the 200-foot-deep gorge to be closed for two or three days.

Longtime Local Leisure Spot 

The site has been no secret to folks here in Jackson County and in nearby Putnam County as locals and their ancestors have enjoyed hitting the ole swimming hole for more than a century.

“The Cummins family had owned the area since 1825,” said Ranger Cutcher. “For over 100 years they operated a mill on this site. The Cummins family didn’t try to restrict use to the area so it kind of became a public recreation area.”

The trek to the base of Cummins Falls may be a little too demanding for some. But views from above are sure to dazzle and delight, too. Nine-month-old Emily Shinall and her mom, Christina, enjoy the pleasant vistas from a safe vantage.

 

“People came here with grain, and while waiting for the grain to be ground would make it a little vacation and stay a few days and swim and fish,” Cutcher went on. “The mill washed away in 1928, but people still continued to come because it was such a local treasure. People never were kept out of this area.”

As for what’s new this summer Cutcher said, “We’ve started doing some different evening programs, like night hikes and campfire programs, and we also have added a few photography and painting programs. These are things that people normally don’t have access to and they are fee-based.”

The park continues to offer Junior Ranger Camp with four-day sessions for children ages 6 to 12, running June 24-27 and July 15-18. Cost is $25.

Preservation Collaboration

Since 2006, local outdoors enthusiasts and the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation had been working to protect Cummins Falls. Through combined efforts, the property was rescued from a proposed housing development at a public auction in 2010.

A stroll along the base of Cummins Falls is exhilarating, but footing can be treacherous.

It was accomplished via kindred spirits as the foundation recruited conservation buyers in Dr. Glenn Hall, Mary Lynn Dobson and Robert D. McCaleb, who temporarily secured the land. Through fundraising efforts the foundation then was able to purchase the land in 2012.

Cutcher said the park plans to purchase another small piece of property where the mill once stood. “We don’t have ownership but our friends group is holding it. And we got a Recreation Trails Program grant to build an observation deck at the main overlook. We hope to have it built later this year.”

While too late for this year, every February the Friends of Cummins Falls State Park hold an annual Cummins Falls Marathon with four certified routes: a marathon, a half marathon, a 5K and a 10K.

The last event drew approximately 300 runners with about 70 participating in the marathon. The race route is steep so, just like seeing the magnificent waterfall, the experience likely would prove breathtaking.

 


Cummins Falls State Park

Hours for the 282-acre day-use park are 8am-6pm.

The gorge area closes at 5pm. People at the bottom of the waterfall must start walking out at 5pm. in order to get back to the parking lot and be out of the park by 6 p.m.

Directions: From Interstate 40 Exit 280, go north 7.7 miles on Highway 56; turn right on Highway 290 and go about 1 mile and turn left on Cummins Mill Road. Go three miles and turn left on Blackburn Fork Road. Drive about 300 yards and turn left.

Park address: 390 Cummins Falls Lane, Cookeville, TN.

931-520-6691, (931) 261-3471.

tnstateparks.com/parks/about/cummins-falls

Press Release from the Cookeville-Putnam Visitors’ Bureau, April 4, 2019:

MANCHESTER, Tenn. – Each year, hospitality and tourism leaders from across the state join together for the Tennessee Hospitality & Tourism Association’s CVB/DMO Conference. Taking place this year in Manchester, Tenn., March 27-28, the Cookeville-Putnam Visitors’ Bureau team not only attended but was featured as an influential destination.

Vice President of Visitor Development Zach Ledbetter was invited to speak to the group of more than 100 Tennessee tourism representatives, sharing best practices and showcasing “How Smaller Destinations Can Do Very Big Things.”

Zach Ledbetter, vice president of visitor development, Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau, addresses questions regarding best practices during a panel discussion at the Tennessee Hospitality & Tourism Association’s CVB/DMO Conference in Manchester, Tenn. last week.

Ledbetter, who leads the charge for marketing Putnam County as a travel destination, served as a speaker during an extensive panel discussion. Topics addressed included the roots of tourism in Putnam County and how events such as BlueCross Bowl gave the visitors’ bureau and the community the confidence to move forward with recruiting and hosting additional visitor-driven events, e.g. motorcycle rallies, fishing championships, etc.

Additional presentation bullets included development of a strategic marketing plan, creation of established branding pillars, inventory of existing tourism assets and packaging those assets to increase visitation to Putnam County.

Ledbetter also addressed questions from the audience regarding challenges in how to compete with larger as well as similar-sized destinations by leveraging a limited budget with smart and strategic targeted marketing investments, e.g. digital media buys, press releases. Additionally, taking advantage of location and proximity to destinations such as Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga was also covered.

The two-day conference offered specialized sessions and workshops aimed to educate and enhance industry knowledge, expanding the abilities of Tennessee’s convention & visitors’ bureaus and destination marketing organizations.

Putnam County’s most recent economic impact statistics (2017) demonstrate $132.03 million in direct tourism expenditures, an increase of 7.3 percent, landing a spot among the top ten counties for percentage increase over the previous year. Putnam County also saw an 8.1 percent increase in payroll with $24.89 million generated by tourism-related jobs. A 5.4 percent increase showed visitor spending generated $2.7 million in local tax receipts for Cookeville-Putnam County, while employment numbers have grown to 1,060 hospitality industry jobs.

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

Link: https://www.tn.gov/agriculture/news/2019/4/2/local-farms-creating-unforgettable-memories-this-easter.html

NASHVILLE – With spring in the air and warmer weather within reach, farms across the state are offering exciting activities for the upcoming holiday. From riding ponies to getting pictures with the Easter Bunny, you can spend a whole day of family fun making memories that last a lifetime.

According to mental health professionals, holidays can be a time of stress. The thought of cooking and planning activities can be overwhelming.

However, local farmers are stepping up to the plate this Easter holiday. Tennessee farms are providing the ultimate stress relief that is sure to entertain the whole family.

“At our farm, there are no mad dashes — just a day filled with nonstop Easter egg hunts, farm-wide scavenger hunts for older kids, and, of course, pictures with the Easter bunny!” said Jimmy McCulley of Amazin’ Acres in White County. “We encourage you to bring your camera to capture the amazing memories with farm animals, the bee line zipline, the jumping pillow, milking a cow or goat, racing ducks, and more!”

One farmer has been planning events for years. “At Falcon Ridge, our annual Easter egg hunt provides families the opportunity to enjoy a day on the farm,” Bart Gilmer of Hardeman County said. “Our visitors can hunt eggs, get a picture with the Easter Bunny, visit the Petting Zoo, and much more without the work of planning an event.”

Don’t have kids and on the hunt for an adult Easter adventure? Look no further. “It’s time to find your inner child and get hopping to Lucky Ladd Farms for Nashville’s famous Bunny and Brew – Adult Egg Hunt,” said Amy Ladd of Lucky Ladd Farms of Rutherford County. “We will have live entertainment, fun lawn games, pre-hunt lite bites, and all-you-can-drink brew and coke products.”

Don’t get stressed — hop on over to the farm this Easter and let the farmers do the planning. The sounds of laugher and joy of all ages will fill the air making for life-long memories.

Go to www.PickTNProducts.org or use the free Pick Tennessee mobile app to find a farm near you. Follow “PickTNProducts” on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to learn more about current seasonal recipes, products, and activities.

Press Release from the Upper Cumberland Tourism Association, March 26, 2019:

Cookeville, TN – The Upper Cumberland Wine Trail wineries will hold their 2019 Upper Cumberland Wine Festival on April 13, from 12:00 noon to 5:00 pm at the Pioneer Village in Historic Granville.

The UC Wine Trail wineries come together only once or twice a year for a tasting festival. Wines will be available for purchase during the event. Wine Festival tickets are $15 available in advance on line www.uppercumberlandwinetrail.com. This year we added special group tickets for 5+ at $12 per person. Day of the festival the tickets are $20 per person at the gate.

Until Friday, April 12 close of business, advance tickets are also available at Sutton Store, Cellar 53, DelMonaco, Northfield and Chestnut Hill wineries. Photo ID required for entry – no exceptions. Tickets are non-refundable. Event will take place, rain or shine. No coolers or outside food/drinks allowed.

The festival ticket will include a souvenir wine glass and coupon for 10% off purchases at Sutton General Store, Granville Gifts, and Granville Antiques & Gifts.

The Upper Cumberland Wine Trail wineries at the festival include Brush Creek’s Cellar 53, Crossville’s Chestnut Hill, Baxter’s DelMonaco, Jamestown’s Highland Manor, Livingston’s Holly Ridge, Sparta’s Northfield Vineyards, and Cookeville’s new Paris Winery.

This is a day the whole family can enjoy. To participate in the wine tasting you must be 21 years or older. Visit the Upper Cumberland Wine Trail’s website uppercumberlandwinetrail.com or Face Book site for updates.

The festival will coincide with the launch of Historic Granville’s 2019 Summer Season, presenting special exhibits at the Homestead and Museum with the 1960’s Mayberry Decade. Granville’s Genealogy Festival will feature the Carver and Fox families.

Guests will have the opportunity to step back into time as they stroll through Historic Granville to visit the Antique Car Show, Sutton Homestead, General Store and Granville Museum. Several gift & antiques stores will be open for some shopping. Granville is nestled on the banks of the Cumberland River. This peaceful sleepy town comes alive for the yearly festivals. It’s a perfect day to dress in 60’s attire with your friends, or plan a group ride to Granville, group discounts are available for the Wine Fest.

Plan now to stay for dinner and a show as a special Blue Grass Dinner Show featuring the Bilbrey’s is scheduled at the Sutton General Store. This dinner will offer attendees their famous family style southern cooking. Dinner is served at 5 p.m. The 11th Anniversary of Sutton Ole Time Music Hour & Radio show begins at 6 p.m. Make reservations soon at 931-653-4151 as this will be a sold out show.

For more information about the festival, go to www.uppercumberlandwinetrail.com or https://www.facebook.com/UpperCumberlandWineTrail. For more information about Historic Granville, go to http://www.granvilletn.com.

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 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.

New governor looks to spur country-style commerce

In one of his first official acts after taking the oath of office as Tennessee’s newest chief executive, Gov. Bill Lee issued an executive order mandating that state agencies do a better job serving country folks.

The order directs state agencies to take steps toward improving rural economic opportunities, especially in areas deemed “economically distressed.”

“This administration recognizes that Tennessee’s economic growth and prosperity has reached historic levels,” reads Lee’s order, issued Jan. 29. “Despite such growth and prosperity, Tennessee’s rural citizens face challenges unique to their geography that often require a unique response.”

“Educational attainment and labor workforce participation are continuing to lag within our rural communities,” the order states.

Of Tennessee’s 95 counties, 80 are deemed rural by the state. Those around the Upper Cumberland designated “economically distressed” include Jackson, van Buren, Clay and Fentress, as well as Bledsoe, Grundy and nine others in the state.

Lee’s order notes that Tennessee has among states with the highest percentage of distressed counties in the country. The governor observed during a press conference soon after taking office that much of what the state does in the way of corporate recruitment and business project development “automatically happens in urban areas because the vast majority of economic development is occurring in our urban areas.”

“My administration will place a high emphasis on the development and success of our rural areas,” Lee said. “Our first executive order sends a clear message that rural areas will be prioritized across all departments as we work to improve coordination in our efforts.”

Lee’s pledge to focus on rural issues isn’t without precedent. One of the executive order’s mandates is that all 22 state department formally sum up progress they’ve made as a result of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Rural Task Force initiatives.

Their assessments, due by the end of May, must include “a comprehensive description of the department’s initiatives adopted or funded in the last four years to specifically address challenges unique to rural communities.”

Lee’s executive order declares that by June 30 all agencies must provide “recommendations for improving and making more efficient the department’s service of rural Tennesseans.”

Enticing Hinterland Tourism

Lee’s tourism development commissioner, Mark Ezell, says he’s “bullish” on tourism in Tennessee. Tourism’s scope and potential as a driver of economic activity has “community-changing ability” for small towns and rural populations, he said.

Ezell replaces Kevin Triplett, who served in the role under Haslam. He’s no stranger to rural commerce, having worked as a brand development executive with Purity Dairies prior to taking over as the state’s top promoter of Tennessee travel, leisure, entertainment and recreation.

Ezell calls himself “a brand builder.” He says Tennessee is already a “remarkable product.” The goal of his agency now is to get people to visit Tennessee, spend money, then “do that over and over and over again.”

“What is great about tourism is that the size is big and the growth is massive.” Ezell said. “Tourism drives economic impact. Over $20 billion is the new number that we will achieve with growth of over seven percent — beating the national average.”

Tourism bolsters local quality of life throughout the state and has great capacity to do more, he said. “Tourism pays hundreds of millions of dollars for the critical services that help all Tennesseans have a good job, a good school and a safe neighborhood,” he said.

During budget hearings before Gov. Lee in January, Ezell expressed a desire to raise the visibility of seemingly out-of-the-way Tennessee towns and counties endowed with visitor attractions. One of his priorities will be to encourage more travel off the beaten path in order to help share the wealth of tourist dollars flowing into Tennessee.

“Because so many of these counties are rich in scenic beauty or natural resources or adventure tourism opportunities or agritourism, this is a key development piece for us,” he said.

Ezell said his office will try to help rural communities take better advantage of the Adventure Tourism Act “that promotes rafting and kayaking and biking and rock climbing.” The Department of Tourist Development can also lend towns and counties technical and financial assistance in planning and promoting recreation-oriented infrastructure — which is often one of the top ways business and community leaders in economically underperforming regions say the state can help them, he said.

Thirteen of the 15 distressed counties have indicated to the new administration that expanding tourism is their No. 1 priority, said Ezell. For example, Jackson County’s top long term goal is to “leverage the Roaring River and other scenic rivers in the county,” said Ezell.

‘People Relocate Where They Recreate’

Appreciating the benefits of expanding recreation-based tourism is a perspective that makes a lot of sense to Marvin Bullock, president of the Sparta-White County Chamber of Commerce. He says he often encounters transplanted Upper Cumberland entrepreneurs who tell him “our outdoors are why they moved to our area.”

“I am proud that Tennessee recognizes the value of tourism,” he said. “Rural communities with recreational opportunities benefit beyond the dollars spent on tourism and retirees. People relocate where they recreate, and that includes business owners.”

“In the case of Sparta and White County, tourism has substantially contributed to industrial growth and attracting workforce as well,” added Bullock, who points to Jackson Kayak as the best local example of what leveraging nearby recreation potential can achieve in the realm of business and industry development.

Not only is world-champion kayaker Eric Jackson’s company White County’s largest employer, but it regularly helps attract major kayaking events that splash visitors’ dollars around the area.

Just this spring alone, the Upper Cumberland is playing host to two major paddle-sport competitions — the U.S. Freestyle National Team Trials at Rock Island March 16-17, and the inaugural Pan-American Kayak Bass Championship from May 28-31 in Cookeville. The latter is billed as a first-of-its-kind in the world, and will bring more than 100 of the most elite kayak bass anglers from around the globe to Center Hill Lake.

Strengthening Farming, Forestry

Tourism may be a little more flashy and seemingly open-ended in terms of capacity for growth, but farming, ranching and timber-harvesting are still backbone industries in much of rural Tennessee.

That’s especially true around the Upper Cumberland — and in particular the “Nursery Capital of the World,” Warren County.

“Warren County boasts more than 160,000 acres of farmland, with more than 300 nurseries operating in McMinnville and the surrounding vicinity,” according to an economic assessment published last year by the Upper Cumberland Development District. “In 2012, nursery sales totaled $17,691,000, making Warren County the top nursery stock crop producer in the entire country.”

Nevertheless, like in rural areas across the state, farming in general has been diminishing in profitability.

“Agriculture is undoubtedly important in Warren County, however with the industry on a steady decline for the last fifty years, farmers have been struggling to sustain locally owned agribusinesses,” the UCDD report states.

Lee’s new agriculture commissioner, Charlie Hatcher, said his department will be looking to “facilitate or create an environment that is better for farmers or ag businesses” across the state, especially in counties and communities where farming has played a significant role in the local economy

“We are at a time when we know that farm income is down 50 percent,” Hatcher said during Lee’s state budget hearings. He added, “We know that government is not the answer.” Even so, he said “whatever money we have available for cost-shares and grants we would like to use” to make it easier to make a living on the farm.

Gov. Lee is hinting that he might like to see farmers in distressed counties receive “premium scoring” on applications for agriculture enhancement funds and farm-enterprise grant requests with the department.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is in the process of forming an internal task force to counsel the agency on rural economic development, said Hatcher. The task force will advise on “all commodity groups throughout the state,” he said.

In addition, the agency will host an online “suggestion box for ag ideas” to promote outreach and communication with farmers, rural communities and ag-focused businesses and entrepreneurs, said Hatcher.

NOTICE: THIS EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED TO March 23

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
————————————————————————–

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!

Flavor-making is the spice of life for Cookeville entrepreneurs

Part of running a successful small business is knowing how to focus your energies where they’ll do the most good.

For Putnam County taste-creators John and Amanda Brantley, that means concentrating on the two aspects of their business they love most — the making and the marketing of their highly palatable spice-package products.

The Brantleys specialize in concocting a variety of culinary enhancement delights. They share an appetizing talent for mixing up flavor-packed batches of meat rubs, cooking-spice blends and other multi-purpose chow seasonings.

John Brantley and his wife Amanda run a pair of Cookeville-based culinary enhancement businesses: The Lagniappe Spice Company and the Tennessee Spice Company

Among their best-selling grill-mates for making mouthwatering flesh and fish dishes are products with names like Dixieland Steak Seasoning, Bodacious Blackened Seasoning, Booyah BBQ Shrimp Seasoning and Caribbean Citrus Seasoning.

Other products they prepare and sell include peppery-taste-laced jellies and jams, kits for supercharging stone-ground grits, and a line of gourmet cocoa mixes irresistibly infused with mood-warming essences like hazelnut, raspberry, peppermint and mocha.

The Brantleys founded their business in 2010, with the idea of sharing their shared fondness for down-home cooking and Southern food culture — especially New Orleans flavors.

They sell their products through a pair of homegrown companies — The Lagniappe Spice Company and the Tennessee Spice Company. “Lagniappe” is a Louisiana Creole French word that means “a little something extra,” or “an extra blessing.”

“Our custom blends are rooted in our Southern heritage and are sure to enhance your favorite recipes, and hopefully, a few new ones,” their website declares.

Blessings of Being a Small Business

For the Brantleys, living up to their company name means striving for “a little better quality and more product in a bag,” and both at a price that’s affordable to anybody who wants to add some zest to their kitchen cuisine repertoire and pizzazz to their backyard barbecue proficiency.

John said their adventure in commercial spice-making all began when he discovered a particularly savory Big Easy-style seasoning blend that he truly relished, but couldn’t get past the fact that it was a little on the bold side. “It was just too hot to eat in any quantity,” he said.

So he decided to improve upon it by dialing down the heat a bit in order to make it a little more accessible to palates unaccustomed to blistering levels of capsaicin-saturation. The result was a blend that was so popular with his friends that he had trouble keeping it on hand. So he decided to go into the business of making it for profit.

“That’s kind of how we got started,” John said.

“And here we are, 20-plus products later,” added Amanda.

Nowadays, friends and customers often tell John and Amanda they ought to open their own store or restaurant. But the Brantleys say they’re pretty sure that would cut into the fun factor of what they do — and cause unnecessary headaches

“We don’t have a lot of interest in running our own storefront,” said Amanda. “If people can sell it for us and customers see us enough locally, and they know where they can get our products, then that works just fine for us.”

John says one reason he’s an entrepreneur rather than a clock-puncher for someone else is that he gets to organize day-to-day production activities and business operations so as to avoid otherwise avoidable headaches.

“I really like flexibility,” said John, who spent two decades working as a quality-control and research development scientist in the commercial food-manufacturing industry.

Lagniappe Spice Company and Tennessee Spice Company are available direct-to-customer online and at a range of local and regional grocery stores and local-products boutiques.

“Our stuff is carried from time to time in places like Opryland,” said Amanda. “There’s a growing demand for ‘Made in Tennessee’ labeling in tourist-destination spots.”

She said the state Department of Agriculture’s “Pick Tennessee” program has been a good boost for their business — although she’d like to see more PickTN-focused shows and events around the state to promote Tennessee-based products to other Tennesseans.

Home Cooking at Home Shows

John, who helps plan the Upper Cumberland Home and Garden Show’s kitchen demonstration lineup, said he’s particularly fond of participating in trade shows and lifestyle expos.

There he and his wife get to meet not just large numbers of people in short periods of time, but also come in friendly contact with people who might never come across their products otherwise — and who may, as a result of sampling a succulent morsel of John and Amanda’s handiwork, become regular customers.

John especially enjoys conducting demonstrations on “doing something a little different” in the kitchen that people maybe haven’t seen before — like fashioning a meat or seafood glaze out of Lagniappe’s spiced jams or jellies.

“He’s cooked pork tenderloins and steaks before. People alway seem to like that,” said Amanda.

At the Wilson County Southern Home & Garden Expo in February, John gave a lesson on how to whip up a savory shrimp dip guaranteed to please at any party.

John said the culinary demonstration aspect of the Upper Cumberland Home and Garden Show has really come into its own the past few years as Cookeville and the surrounding region continue to draw in skilled chefs and food-and-beverage entrepreneurs.

“It’s nice to be able to showcase local talent,” he said. “Cookeville is becoming a great place for really good food.”