Marion County's Castle Rock site preserved by easement

At left atop Castle Rock, Jean Cheveallier, project manager for The Land Trust of Tennessee, remotely flies a camera-equipped drone off the cliff of the turret-shaped sandstone bluff. Zachary Lesch-Huie, at right, is from The Access Fund.

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For more information and climbing specifics about Castle Rock, visit www.seclimbers.org or landtrusttn.org/castle-rock. HELP CELEBRATE The Crash Pad at 29 Johnson St. in Chattanooga is hosting a celebration of Castle Rock's big news from 6 to 9 p.m. April 30 with food trucks, beer and music. The first beer is $5; $3 each thereafter.

A million-dollar view and a top rock-climbing mecca will be preserved for generations to come thanks to a conservation easement that protects 30 acres at the eastern edge of the Cumberland Plateau in Marion County, Tenn.

"Castle Rock is a world-class climbing destination," said Cody Roney, executive director of the Southeastern Climbers Coalition, one of four groups involved in the protective easement. "People come from all over to climb there. The view from the top of the climb is just gorgeous."

Castle Rock appeals to climbers because of its tall, vertical sandstone cliffs the south-facing view of the Sequatchie Valley that allows year-round use because "it's always nice and sunny," she said.

The Land Trust for Tennessee holds the conservation easement that protects Castle Rock in perpetuity while allowing access for recreational use. The Southeastern Climbers Coalition will continue to manage the property for rock-climbing enthusiasts and other uses through a lease agreement with the Tennessee River Gorge Trust, another preservation group lending its expertise to the effort.

The property was jointly owned by Jasper, Tenn., attorney Harvey Cameron and the late Sam "Bud" Werner, a well-known conservationist, veteran, businessman and landowner active through most of the last century. Werner's ownership was bequeathed to The Conservation Fund, which joined with Cameron to donate the land.

"My wife, Emily, and I are very pleased this pristine area is protected in perpetuity, allowing the preservation of one of the most scenic views in this area," Cameron said.

The climbers coalition has established almost 100 sport and traditional climbing routes on Castle Rock. The sandstone formation rises 120 feet from the bottom of the bluff and is known for having one of the hardest routes in Tennessee.

Because the access road to the bottom of the bluff is privately owned by Janette Phillips, Roney reminds climbers they should text Phillips at 423-421-9760 when they arrive to provide the make and model of their vehicles and "to say thanks."

"Castle Rock provides a shining example of how conservation organizations can come together to protect our unique landscape, ensuring that future generations have the same opportunities to enjoy the land that we do," said Joel Houser, Southeast regional director for The Land Trust for Tennessee.

Tennessee River Gorge Trust Executive Director Rick Huffines said the organization "is proud to collaborate with a dedicated team of conservationists" to protect the iconic site.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at [email protected] or twitter.com/BenBenton or www.facebook.com/ben.benton1 or 423-757-6569.