The Graysville Mountain area in Hamilton and Rhea counties has just been added to Tennessee's newest park -- the 300-mile Cumberland Trail.
To add 10 miles to the state's scenic trail between Sale Creek and Dayton, Tenn., the state acquired 3,200 acres in property and easements from sellers Richard and Annette Kinzalow, of Dayton.
The deal, brokered by the Land Trust for Tennessee, was made with $3.5 million in federal grants, a $1 million grant from the state's Heritage Conservation Trust Fund from fiscal 2008, and a $300,000 contribution from the Cumberland Trail Conference, according to state officials.
Bobby Fulcher, manager of the Cumberland Trail State Park and its scenic trail, said most people in Chattanooga know Graysville Mountain as the green flank of Walden's Ridge that they see as they drive U.S. 27 through northern Hamilton County toward Dayton in Rhea County.
"Folks in Chattanooga will forever be the beneficiaries of this by the conservation of that view -- the face of Walden's Ridge," Mr. Fulcher said.
But the scenery is even better from the ridge, he said. There, on clear days, hikers will be able to see all the way across the Tennessee Valley to the Unakas -- the Blue Ridge Mountains of the Cherokee National Forest.
With the announcement Tuesday, Mr. Kinzalow, 74, said he wants to see the land kept just as it is.
"Basically, the view is being preserved from Sale Creek to just beyond Dayton," he said. "And on that property are some of the most scenic gorges you'll ever see. Each gorge is different, and the creeks are all free running."
Mr. Kinzalow said he will receive some tax breaks for his conservation effort.
"I'm sure they are not worth what the property could be worth in the future," he said. "I just thought it was a good thing to do."
Mr. Fulcher said Tuesday's acquisition, coupled with another 19-mile trail piece announced the day before in upper East Tennessee -- represent key pieces of the state's scenic trail. Together they place the state over the halfway mark for putting together the trail's eventual 300-mile length.
"It would hard to complete our vision without these properties. They are critical links in this 11-county corridor," he said. "Now we have about 170 miles of trail put together."
A long-time student and advocate of Walden's Ridge and Cumberland Mountain culture and folklore, Mr. Fulcher said he soon will be mapping new trail routes and trail heads, making new recreational plans and coordinating biodiversity and culture studies over the property.
Several boulder fields and steep creeks on the property already have national identities in the whitewater and rock climbing world, he said.
TRAIL AT A GLANCE
* 3,200 acres: Added to the park Tuesday
-- 1,095 purchased in Hamilton County
-- 2,187 acquired easement in Rhea County
* 10: New miles added to trail locally
* 1,388 acres: Added to the park Monday
* 19: New miles added in upper East Tennessee
* 170: Total miles of trail acquired to date and open for use
* 300: Total planned miles of trail
ABOUT CUMBERLAND TRAIL STATE PARK
Upon completion, the Cumberland Trail, the state's only linear park, will be 300 miles long, cutting through 11 Tennessee counties from the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park on the Tennessee-Virginia-Kentucky border to the Signal Point near Chattanooga.
Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Jim Fyke said the trail and state park property has grown quickly under Gov. Phil Bredesen's leadership -- from 1,200 acres to 23,000 acres since 2003.
Gov. Bredesen, a long-time supporter of the new park, said the newest local piece will benefit Tennesseans "for generations to come."
On Monday, the Trust for Public Land and state officials announced the 1,388-acre acquisition in upper East Tennessee that will add another 19 miles to the Cumberland Trail in Claiborne and Campbell counties.
The upper East Tennessee property, purchased from Molpus Woodlands Group, includes a dramatic ridgeline overlooking the scenic Powell Valley and protects McLean Rock, a natural landmark where the founding of the Cumberland Trail was announced in 1965.
The Trust for Public Land purchased the Molpus property for $2.08 million, and the state, in turn, will purchase the land from the trust, according to Rick Wood, director of TPL's Chattanooga office.
Tisha Calabrese-Benton, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, said the state's participation in the Molpus purchase was funded in 2003, using money from the stateside funding pot of the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, the State Lands Acquisition Fund and the Natural Resources Trust Fund.
Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...