A small but significant holding of private land across from Stone Door at Savage Gulf is now in the hands of the Friends of South Cumberland (FSC). The nonprofit conservation organization recently closed on the 40-acre Jones Tract that includes 2,000 feet of bluff line immediately across and in view from the Stone Door overlook. Stone Door, one of the most visited Tennessee State Park attractions, is also a cornerstone of ecotourism in Grundy County. The FSC announced that a “Land Preservation Celebration” marking the Jones Tract acquisition will be held at Stone Door and the historic Beersheba Hotel on October 11.
“This purchase is one we have been working on for over eight years,” said Friends president Latham Davis. “Sometimes a small tract like this can be tremendously important because of the irrevocable damage to the view if houses were to be built along the bluff.” According to Latham, this transaction is especially rewarding because of recent issues with private property access on the Fiery Gizzard Trail. “We are glad to have good news to report,” he said, “and we hope many will come to our Gaze and Graze event to celebrate with us and enjoy the unobstructed and now protected view from the Stone Door overlook.”
The Grundy County property belonged to Michigan resident Shirley Jones who wanted the family land preserved for future generations. “The Friends consider Ms. Jones a conservation hero for her willingness to work with us to keep her land part of this pristine natural area,” said Davis. “She falls into a line of other heroes of the South Cumberland — the families of Werner, Boyd, Whitson, Greeter, and Ruehling, among others. We are also thankful for the efforts of Friends volunteer Robert McCaleb who forged connections with Ms. Jones and maintained them over many years.”
South Cumberland Interim Park Manager George Shinn is “overjoyed” at this long-hoped-for transaction. He noted that 30 years ago when the state was assessing Savage Gulf, this small tract was flagged as one of the highest priorities. According to Shinn, “We are so thankful that the Friends were able to purchase this land when the family decided to sell. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and the State Park administration want the parklands to grow, but their system for land procurement is complex and can take years. Sometimes a developer is able to swoop in and close a deal before the state has time to evaluate the tract. Having a Friends group like ours is an incredible gift to the South Cumberland and to all the residents of Tennessee who will enjoy these parks in the future.”
Davis noted that a major role of the FSC is to protect the boundaries of the park—the bluffs, trails and watersheds— by purchasing priority tracts and easements. Tracts such as the Jones Tract that are owned by the Friends are managed and utilized by the rangers as part of the South Cumberland State Park. Stone Door is one of the most popular overlooks in Savage Gulf State Park, which is one of the ten parks that comprise South Cumberland State Park, the largest wilderness state park in Tennessee.
For more details about the October 11, Gaze and Graze event, which is free and open to all, visit the FSC website: wwwfriendsofsouthcumberland.