The land that houses the historical Cherokee Removal Memorial Park, as well as the thousands of cranes that draw a crowd each year at the Sandhill Crane Festival, could be lost forever to development without immediate action from the community.
The Land Trust for Tennessee is working to purchase 68 acres of land on Blythe Ferry Road in Meigs County, and time is almost up to raise the nearly $100,000 in funding left out of the $425,000 needed by the end of this month to make the acquisition a possibility, says Tricia King, Southeast region project manager for the Land Trust for Tennessee. "This entire 600-acre or so property was going to be a golf course-style development called Rarity Rivers, proposed for right where the Hiwassee River meets the Tennessee River," King says. "The 68 acres we're actually purchasing was proposed to have a high-density residential development, like condos and townhomes, with a wastewater treatment facility."
Because of the historic and ecological significance of the area, which adjoins the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency's Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, the Land Trust for Tennessee began the two-year-long process to acquire the land - an effort that would forever protect this acreage from being developed. "It took a while to negotiate even the separation of the 68 acres, but eventually they agreed. We can't buy the whole thing, but these 68 acres are important to forever secure that wildlife habitat," she says. "It's such a community asset, and with any of these projects it takes donations of all sizes. We're starting with the bulk of [the funds], but the rest of it is just grassroots community folks donating what they can."
If purchased successfully, the land will ultimately be owned by the TWRA and will be absorbed into the land that makes up the Hiawassee Wildlife Refuge. "[Donating] makes the whole community feel vested in seeing this land protected and knowing that visitors can always appreciate it as we do today," King says. "How often do you have the opportunity to do something this permanent to have a lasting impact on your community's assets? There's only one Trail of Tears, there's only one place called Blythe Ferry ... and that's significant. Any donation at any level is an investment in the future of your community."
For more information or to donate, visit landtrusttn.org or call 423-305-1783