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Cumberland Trail State Park to Hold Series of Anniversary Events May 4-6

Tuesday, May 01, 2012 | 07:56am
Celebrations to Commemorate Tennessee State Parks’ 75th Anniversary and New Land Acquisition at Laurel-Snow State Natural Area
 
CARYVILLE, Tenn. – The year 2012 marks Tennessee State Parks’ 75th Anniversary, and to help commemorate this important milestone, Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park and Laurel-Snow State Natural Area will hold a special event on Friday, May 4, beginning at 2 p.m., followed by a series of weekend celebrations. 
 
“We are very excited to celebrate Tennessee State Parks’ 75th Anniversary this year and the newly acquired land at Laurel-Snow,” said Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau.  “Encompassing more than 28,000 acres, the Cumberland Trail is Tennessee’s only linear state park, and it is certainly a fitting backdrop for one of the many statewide celebrations we will be holding throughout the year.  It’s also a great opportunity to thank the park’s many patrons and the entire local community for all their hard work and efforts in support of this unique state park.” 
 
On May 4, media are invited to attend a series of short presentations, followed by the dedication of the recently acquired land that will add 801 acres to the Laurel-Snow State Natural area.  Light refreshments also will be served. Please Note:  Due to the number of guests attending the May 4 event and the size of the Laurel-Snow State Natural Area parking lot, we ask that media not open the May 4 event to the public.  However, May 5-6 events are open.
 
WHO:             
Senator Ken Yager
Representative Jim Cobb
Former Representative Raymond Walker
Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill, Tennessee State Parks
Assistant Commissioner Joe Gaines, Tennessee Department of Agriculture
Dr. Charles Gardner and Family
Rhea County Mayor George Thacker
Mayor of Dayton Bob Vincent
Mayor of Spring City Mary Sue Garrison
City Manager of Spring City Vicki Doster
Rhea County Highway Department Supervisor Tommy Snyder
Interim Director of Tennessee State Parks Mike Robertson
East Tennessee Parks Area Manager Herb Roberts
Park Manager Bobby Fulcher
Members of the Cumberland Trail Conference, Friends of Cumberland Trail and the Rhea County Historical Society
Local elected officials and community members
 
WHAT:
Tennessee State Parks’ 75th anniversary event at Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park and new land acquisition dedication for Laurel-Snow State Natural Area; there will be a series of short presentations, followed by light refreshments. 
           
WHEN:           
Friday, May 4 at 2 p.m.
 
WHERE:         
Laurel-Snow State Natural Area, located north of Dayton
Accessible via Highway 27/29
 
The Tennessee State Parks system was established through legislation in 1937, and those laws – with modifications and additions over the years – remain the framework for park operations today.  As in most states, Tennessee began in cooperation with federal programs that instigated individual parks. Later, Depression era recovery programs gave a boost to the idea and the possibility of creating parks. The Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration worked on land conservation, but also delved further into the actual planning and construction of what would become the first of 53 Tennessee State Parks.
 
“In the late 1960s, strong interest grew for protecting Laurel-Snow – one of the wildest and most beautiful places in Tennessee,” said Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill.  “From the very start of this movement the importance of these 800 acres in Rhea County’s Richland Creek Gorge was recognized, and its protection was taken up by Southern Bowater Paper Corporation – the company that held a long-term lease upon this property.”   
 
Bowater leased the land in 1957 from the Gardner family of Virginia and announced the opening of the Laurel-Snow Pocket Wilderness in 1971. The Bowater Pocket Wilderness system was created by administrators at Bowater’s headquarters in Calhoun, Tenn.  At the time, it was considered an unprecedented action by an American commercial forestry company to protect scenic wilderness areas under corporate management.  In 1973, Bowater approved a joint agreement with the state of Tennessee, allowing these 800 acres to also be managed as the Laurel-Snow State Natural Area.   In 2008, Bowater conveyed their lease of these 800 acres of the Gardner land tract to the state, along with a sale of 1460 acres more of the watershed – making up a natural area 2,260 acres in size.
 
“But the clock was still ticking toward the time when the lease would expire,” added Park Manager Bobby Fulcher.  “From Laurel Falls to Buzzard Point to the dramatic 19th century Dayton Coal and Iron Company stonework – the future of these wonderful features was in the hands of the Gardner Family of Alexandria, Va. and Miami, Fla. who owned the land.  This past August, the Gardner family agreed to the sale of these natural and historical treasures to the people of Tennessee, with full appreciation for the merits of the beauty and history found here, and in full agreement that the destiny of this site should be preservation for posterity.”    
 
A permanent exhibit will be placed at the former Gardner tract, recognizing the family for their contribution to the long-term protection of the area.  Fulcher added that numerous partners have provided for the protection of Laurel-Snow for the past 40 years, including private individuals, corporations, educational institutions and organizations, non-profit groups, and local and state governments.  
 
The Friends of the Cumberland Trail have planned a number of weekend events in honor of the Laurel-Snow announcement, including a history tour on Saturday, May 5, beginning at 10 a.m. at the Laurel-Snow parking area.  Also on Saturday, Historian William Wade will lead visitors to the impressive ruins of the Dayton Coal and Iron Company works inside the natural area, where stone and brick structures built between 1890 and 1905 are now hidden in the lush forest. 
 
At the Dayton Courthouse from 1:30 - 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, British historians David Shaw and David King of Saltaire, England will present images and stories of the Salt family and Saltaire – their celebrated model village, now a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The Salt family founded the Dayton Coal and Iron Company in 1877. 
 
On Sunday, May 6, beginning at 1 p.m., East Tennessee Natural Areas Administrator Lisa Huff and Dianne Mullich, Cumberland Trail naturalist, will lead an exploration of the natural treasures preserved in this prominent natural area.  Participants should meet at 1:00 p.m. at the Laurel-Snow parking area and bring water and good footwear. 
 
Upon completion, the Cumberland Trail, the state’s only linear park, will be 300 miles, cutting through 11 Tennessee counties from the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park on the Tennessee-Virginia-Kentucky border to the Signal Point near Chattanooga.  More than one hundred and fifty miles of the Cumberland Trail is currently open and ready for exploration.  For more information about the park, please visit www.tnstateparks.com/CumberlandTrail
 
Laurel-Snow is a 2,259-acre natural area located in Rhea County. The natural area occurs on the Walden Ridge of the Cumberland Plateau and contains a section of gorge that is deeply dissected by Morgan, Henderson, Laurel, and Richland Creeks. The site is named after two scenic waterfalls – Laurel Falls (80 feet) and Snow Falls (35 feet) – and features two prominent overlooks, Buzzard Point and Bryan Overlook (also known as Raven Point).  For additional information about the May 4-6 events, please call Cumberland Trail State Park at (423) 566-2229.  Please visit http://www.tn.gov/environment/na/natareas/laurelsnow/ for directions to the state natural area. 
 
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