A public-private agreement will support the YMCA's Camp Ocoee while protecting forested land within the Ocoee River watershed.
The YMCA of Metropolitan Chattanooga said this week it will sell the land to the U.S. Forest Service. The 160 forested acres between two tributaries of the Ocoee River — the headwaters of Indian Creek and Hawkins Branch — will be protected under the agreement. The proceeds will be used for Camp Ocoee.
"Over the past 94 years, YMCA Camp Ocoee has become known for its legacy of enriching lives," Janet Dunn, president and CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Chattanooga, said in a news release. "The value YMCA Camp Ocoee brings to the community, along with the close relationship we have with the U.S. Forest Service, makes this sale a win-win."
The unused parcel is surrounded by approximately 50,000 acres of federally owned and protected forest. The $200,000 sales price will be used for the YMCA's capital campaign for improvements to Camp Ocoee.
The U.S. Forest Service received funding from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and grants from the Lyndhurst and Riverview foundations. The foundations made donations to offset the land cost, making the deal possible, said realty specialist Laura Lewis, who helped with the deal.
"We're very pleased to support the YMCA's mission, too," Lewis said. "Camp Ocoee has quite the legacy in the community."
The land will be open for public use and can be accessed by those on foot and bike.
The conservation project was selected in-house by the Forest Service in a merit-based process that prioritized the project for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, according to the release. The fund is a federal program that uses a percentage of proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties to acquire and protect land. It does not use taxpayer money, according to the release.
"This property adds an additional 160 acres to Cherokee National Forest within the very important and popular Ocoee River watershed," forest supervisor JaSal Morris said in the release. "By acquiring this total 'inholding,' land management efforts will become more efficient, and cost effective. We are also pleased to support the YMCA's community- based mission."
This story was updated Oct. 11 at 11:59 p.m.