Pink Lady Slippers

Interpretive panels to be installed in the South Cumberland State Park will help wildflower enthusiasts identify native species of flora, like these Pink lady’s slippers, in the park thanks to a mini grant from the Friends of Tennessee State Parks

The Friends of South Cumberland have received a small grant from the statewide Friends group to help install interpretive panels on wildflowers in throughout the park system.

FSC has been awarded a “mini grant” worth $500 from the Friends of Tennessee State Parks (FOTSP) for the interpretive panels, which will feature QR codes for easy identification of wildflowers in areas with limited cellular service. The grant was one of 15 awarded to Friends groups across the Volunteer State, which totaled nearly $7,000.

FOTSP awarded $6,000 in grant funds via the $500 mini grants, as well as three $250 mini grants to other state parks Friends groups for various projects, including updating storybook trails, interpretive signs, information kiosks and trail signs, native bee hotels, trail building tools, upgrading dog parks, classroom instruction tools, directional signage and many more.

“The Friends of Tennessee State Parks is thrilled to provide grant funding despite COVID-19’s heavy toll on our ability to hold our annual conference in 2020 or to socialize and fund raise,” said Teresa Dugger, vice-president of The Friends of Tennessee State Parks. “We had $7,000 budgeted for the 2021 awards and were able to fully fund 12 grant requests at the maximum of $500 and partially fund three other requests. We were impressed by the number of applicants as well as the quality of the projects proposed. We appreciate all of our state parks’ all-volunteer Friends Groups and the work they do.”

The panels will be installed near the Savage Gulf North (Stone Door/Big Creek Gulf) and Savage Gulf South (Collins Gulf) trailheads. Visitors to the area will be able to download an electronic wildflower identification guide, using the camera on most current-generation smartphones.

The identification guide is a PDF file that can be downloaded to the visitor’s phone by scanning a QR code embedded on the interpretive panel. The guide is organized by flower color, with an additional section describing flowering shrubs and trees, as well as different types of ferns. Over 100 wildflower varieties are listed, along with 15 different types of ferns and 17 kinds of flowering trees and shrubs that are prevalent in the South Cumberland State Park.

“By downloading the identification resource at the trailhead, visitors will have the wildflower guide at their disposal, wherever they are in the park, whether they have a cell signal on the trail or not,” Friends volunteer Rick Dreves said. “Additional wildflower panels are planned for other trailheads in the park as well.”

 

Other projects

 

In addition to the interpretive panels, FSC has recently completed a trail marking system that posts mile markers on every trail in the park. The 4-inch metallic medallions each feature trail mileage for the specific trail they mark, as well as a unique location code hikers can use to accurately report their location if they need to call first responders for help. The markers are also color-coded to differentiate adjacent trails from one another.

The nonprofit group also received a 2021 Certificate of Merit from the Tennessee Historic Commission for its work on building an interpretive trail on the site of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Company 1475 in the South Cumberland State Park.