The Cumberland Trail, a state scenic trail, travels through the Laurel-Snow State Natural Area in Rhea County.Photo by Meghan Brown
10 a.m. -- History tour, beginning at 10 a.m. in the Laurel-Snow parking area. The tour will include the impressive ruins of the Dayton Coal and Iron Co. works where stone and brick structures built between 1890 and 1905 are now hidden in lush forest.
1:30-2:30 p.m. -- At the Rhea County Courthouse, British historians David Shaw and David King of Saltaire, England will present images and stories of the Salt family, who founded the Dayton Coal and Iron Co. in 1877.
1 p.m. -- East Tennessee Natural Areas Administrator Lisa Huff and Cumberland Trail Naturalist Dianne Mullich will lead an exploration of the natural treasures preserved in the Laurel-Snow Natural Area. The tour will begin in the Laurel-Snow parking area. Bring water and good footwear.
Source: Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation
Visitors and guests from as far away as Great Britain are here to celebrate the state of Tennessee's acquisition of the Laurel-Snow State Natural Area, now 2,259 acres.
The original 800 acres, which includes Laurel Falls, Snow Falls, Buzzard Point and most of the Dayton Coal and Iron Co. ruins, was one of the first Tennessee state natural areas in 1973.
But the state owned none of the land until this past August.
Bowater Paper Corp., which held a long-term lease on the land, in 2008 conveyed that lease to the state, after creating its own "pocket wilderness" area there. In August, the Gardner family, which owned the land, agreed to sell it to the state.
"We're rededicating it now, as part of the celebration of the 75th anniversary of Tennessee State Parks birth," said Bobby Fulcher, park manager of the Cumberland Trail State Park.
Fulcher said the state's acquisition of the property assures "the future of these wonderful features ... in full agreement that the destiny of this site should be preservation for posterity."
Tennessee Environment and Conservation Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill said Tennesseans in the late 1960s developed a strong interest in protecting Laurel-Snow, "one of the wildest and most beautiful places in Tennessee."
And TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau said the Cumberland Trail State Park, of which Laurel-Snow is now part, "is certainly a fitting backdrop" for the series of weekend celebrations.
The Cumberland Trail, when completed, will stretch 300 miles from Signal Mountain through 11 counties to the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park on the Tennessee-Virginia-Kentucky border. More than 150 miles of the trail is now open.
At Laurel-Snow, a permanent exhibit will be placed on the former Garner tract, recognizing the family for its contribution to the land's long-term protection.
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, ...