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Cumberland Trail State Park and the Land Trust for Tennessee worked together to assemble funding and negotiate the right combination of conservation mechanisms to add 10 miles to the Cumberland Trail State Scenic Trail.

arrow This project was nominated for a Partnership Award as part of the 2008 National Trails Awards, announced at the 19th National Trails Symposium in Little Rock, Arkansas.

 

Partners lead acquision of mountain for Cumberland Trail in Tennessee

 

photo of hiker on top of mountain

Hiker on Graysville Mountain

The partnership for the Graysville Mountain Acquisition worked together for over two years to achieve this milestone toward completing the 300-mile Cumberland Trail State Scenic Trail, which starts in Cumberland Gap National Park on the Kentucky/Virginia/Tennessee border and stretches south to the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park just outside Chattanooga, Tennessee.

This project provides for over 10 miles of linear trail, nearly connecting existing sections of the Cumberland Trail, and the permanent protection of 3,200 acres of considerable conservation value. The Graysville Mountain portion of the trail parallels a State Scenic Highway corridor, and offers outstanding opportunities for day trips and stops with scenic vistas, fantastic water features, working forests, Civil War sites, pioneer sites, Native American sites, and trail ratings from accessible and easy to difficult.

Two incorporated towns, Dayton and Graysville, as well Sale Creek, will serve day use visitors and long distance hikers on this acquisition. Residents of the three communities, in turn, will be well-served by the outstanding, accessible outdoor recreation area in their “back yard.” The area will immediately accommodate hiking, swimming, and fishing activities, and become a worthy destination on its own merits. Equestrian and biking use may be developed on the existing system of forest roads on the site. The acquisition is an essential connection for the development of the long distance, backcountry hiking trail.

photo of hikers and rocks

On the Cumberland Trail

The Graysville Mountain section also protects the unbroken green eastern slope of Walden’s Ridge, seen from Sale Creek to Dayton by travelers on US Highway 27 and State Highway 303. Due in great part to the beauty of this mountain wall, US Hwy 27 is one of the very few roadways currently designated as a “Tennessee Scenic Highway” by the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Environmental Division.

The acquisition of this property fulfills the priorities of the 2001 Tennessee Greenways Plan, which suggested the Cumberland Trail should serve as the backbone of the state's greenways development. The 2001 Greenways Plan was endorsed in the 2003-2008 Tennessee State Recreation Plan; and the Cumberland Trail Corridor is clearly designated in the Tennessee Heritage Conservation Trust Fund Plan as an "Area of Interest." In addition to being a statewide priority for greenways and trails, the Cumberland Trail received national attention. The Great Eastern Trail Association, affiliated with the American Hiking Society, the Southeastern Foot Trails Coalition, and the Mid-Atlantic Foot Trails Coalition published a Great Eastern Trail Concept Plan which incorporates the Cumberland Trail as a critical link in a 10,000 mile network of National and State Scenic Trails.

As noted above, the Graysville Mountain Acquisition to the Cumberland Trail State Park and State Scenic Trail is a remarkable achievement worthy of consideration by the National Trails Award. However, the unique partnership that made the acquisition possible is truly a model for public and private agencies working together, each bringing resources to the table and taking the lead in different aspects of the project. The Cumberland Trail State Park, a division of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, had the 3,200 acre property in its sights for many years, as it would allow over ten miles of the Cumberland Trail to be constructed through a single private landowner’s property— a rare event for a trail that stretches over 300 miles. State Park officials worked with the Tennessee Department of Transportation to secure Transportation Enhancement funding that would apply to a land acquisitions or trail easement purchases for sections of the trail that enhance the viewshed along Tennessee roadways.

Photo of trail along stresm

 

Meanwhile, the landowner, Mr. Richard Kinzalow of Dayton,TN, was considering the options for the future of his sizeable acreage, which totaled over 5,000 acres in Rhea, Hamilton, and Bledsoe Counties. While the property provided income for the landowner from recreational use and leases, timber management, some limited mining and from selling the occasional smaller tract, he was considering the long-term use of the land and weighing the conservation possibilities. However, the best case scenario for Mr. Kinzalow involved selling a large portion of the property in fee to the State of Tennessee, rather than selling or granting a trail easement through the property.

The Land Trust for Tennessee became involved at the point where the Cumberland Trail State Park was willing to purchase the land but lacked sufficient funding for such a large acquisition. After receiving approval by the Tennessee State Building Commission to act as a third party to the transaction, the Land Trust negotiated with the landowner on the option of a conservation easement, which would be placed on the property and restrict it to recreational use prior to the fee simple sale to the State. The conservation easement would lower the value of the property enough to make the purchase feasible for the State of Tennessee, while providing the landowner with a federal income tax deduction that would make up for the reduction in the sale price. The Land Trust’s nimbleness as a private agency also provided some much-needed flexibility for coordinating time-sensitive aspects of the transaction, such as the survey and appraisal.

The addition of The Land Trust for Tennessee as a third party and the creation of the public-private partnership also provided the impetus for the Tennessee Heritage Conservation Trust Fund to make a critical commitment of dollars toward the acquisition, to supplement the funding that the State Park was assembling from TEA grants and other sources. The Cumberland Trail Conference and the Southeastern Climbers Association both contributed to covering eleventh-hour transaction costs that had not previously been identified but threatened to derail the project if they were not covered. The conservation easement and the fee simple purchase were both completed on December 22, 2009, within minutes of each other.

For more information:

The Land Trust for Tennessee
736 Georgia Avenue, Suite 505
Chattanooga TN 37402 Phone: 423.364.3268
http://www.landtrusttn.org

Cumberland Trail Conference - http://www.cumberlandtrail.org

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