Robert D. McCaleb, of Cleveland, Tenn., is modest about his efforts to help preserve portions of the Cumberland Plateau. But the Friends of South Cumberland State Park are not modest in praising him.
Last weekend, the Friends honored McCaleb with the Jim Prince Memorial Award - an honor given each year to someone who has gone above and beyond in volunteer service to the park.
"He loves the outdoors and loves to meet people, and his job was to go out and contact landowners surrounding the park. He persuaded many of them to sell land to us," said Glenn Himebaugh, a Friends board member and historian.
The Friends group, in turn, last year transferred its acquired land - about 6,000 acres in and around the Fiery Gizzard Cove - to the state.
The additions make the South Cumberland State Park, now at 24,000 acres, the largest state park in Tennessee.
Some of the tracts McCaleb brought in included the headwaters of the Sequatchie River and Devilstep Hollow Cave, which contains significant archaeological resources.
He also was instrumental in the foundation's purchase of Cummins Falls.
"My involvement was very, very minimal," McCaleb said. "I have been involved in several smaller acquisitions and much landowner outreach and research."
Himebaugh begs to differ.
"McCaleb's efforts as a liaison between the Friends board and neighboring landowners played a significant role in several recent land acquisitions. His association with the Friends group began in 2006 and is ongoing," the historian said.
McCaleb also supplied technical information to The Nature Conservancy leading to acquisition of tracts in the Walls of Jericho area and was a charter board member of the Friends of Fall Creek Falls. An accomplished caver, he has mapped more than 10 miles of cave passage in Tennessee and Alabama, Himebaugh said.