Ron Swafford, a rural real estate agent for 30 years, said he once thought about putting condominiums or apartments on a 54-acre farm near downtown Pikeville, Tenn.
But something about the Pikeville Spring Farm he had acquired seemed special to him, so he decided against that plan.
"This one is a little different than most (rural properties,)" he said. "It's right in town -- less than a block from the courthouse. And it has a beautiful spring. And the river."
So instead of developing the farm that borders the Sequatchie River, he placed it and its historic Pikeville Spring -- once the town's source of water -- into a land preservation easement with the Land Trust for Tennessee.
The parcel is the first Bledsoe County land easement project completed by the Trust, and first such easement on the Sequatchie River, said Tricia King, Southeast region project manager for the Land Trust for Tennessee.
It also includes an option for a small public park to be created one day around the area of the spring, she said. The farm and spring remain in Mr. Swafford's ownership, but if the property is sold or passed down through his estate, it must remain as is and cannot be developed.
"With 3,228 feet of frontage on the Sequatchie River, which is on the state's 'impaired waters' list, this easement helps protect that watershed from further degradation," Ms. King said. "Plus there is the benefit of having this historic spring always protected."
The farm can be seen from Frazier Street in downtown Pikeville and state Highway 209, but it still supports deer, turkey, rabbits, raccoons, snakes, turtles, hawks, turkey, owls and other wildlife.
Ms. King also said 98 percent of the Pikeville Spring Farm's 40 acres of cleared land has soils classified by the United States Department of Agriculture as "prime soils."
"That means that some of the best soil for raising foods is going to be forever available for raising foods," she said.
Property placed in preservation easements with the private and nonprofit Land Trust for Tennessee does not involve taxpayer money, she said. The property remains on local tax rolls, but property owners do receive some income tax breaks and sometimes state tax breaks.
For Mr. Swafford, it simply was the "right thing to do" for the property and the town.
"I've been in the rural real estate business for 30 years and done land auctions and farm auctions. Over the years a lot of that has meant busting up farms. I love farming, and I saw this as an opportunity to hang on to one and keep it together," he said.
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SOUTHEAST TENNESSEE EASEMENTS
* Bledsoe County -- 1 project, 54 acres, Pikeville
* Bradley County -- 1 project, 47 acres, McDonald
* Hamilton County -- 7 projects and 1,472 acres, Georgetown, Ooltewah (2), Collegedale, Chattanooga, Signal Mountain, Sale Creek
* McMinn County -- 2 projects, 693 acres and 80 acres, both in Athens
* Meigs County -- 1 project, 134 acres, Georgetown acres
* Monroe County -- 1 project, 625 acres, Sweetwater
* Polk County -- 2 projects, 68 acres in Reliance and 393 acres in Ocoee
* Rhea County -- 1 project, 2,187 acres, Graysville (now part of Cumberland Trail State Park)
* Sequatchie County -- 1 project, 44 acres, Dunlap
Source: Land Trust for Tennessee