This story was originally published in the February/March 2015 issue of Chattanooga Magazine.
Listed here are organizations that need your support. Pick one that’s close to your heart and join in the effort to preserve some of the South’s great spaces.
Tennessee River Gorge Trust
Dedicated to protecting the beautiful Tennessee River Gorge, the Tennessee River Gorge Trust (TRGT) protects over 17,000 acres of the 27,000 acres within the gorge. The gorge spans from about five miles downstream of downtown Chattanooga to 27 miles away near Nickajack Lake. Through simple purchases, Memorandums of Understanding, and conservation easements, the Tennessee River Gorge Trust has been able to preserve hundreds of thousands of acres of land from development. Under Executive Director Rick Huffines, the TRGT is able to work toward fulfilling their goal of preserving the Tennessee River Gorge as a “healthy and productive resource through land protection, education, community engagement, and good land stewardship practices.”
Land Trust for Tennessee
The largest land trust in Tennessee, the Land Trust for Tennessee has conserved nearly 100,000 acres since its founding in 1999. The Trust is committed to partnering with the community and landowners to help preserve and protect land in Tennessee for future generations. Through conservation easements, which allow people to continue owning their own land while still limiting its further development, as well as land donations and outright purchases, the Land Trust for Tennessee is able to create a balance between development and conservation. They focus on conserving historic land, working farms, and urban spaces, among other land areas. Executive Director Jeanie Nelson helps ensure that the work of the Land Trust for Tennessee continues to secure the state’s position as a great place to live, work and play.
Lula Lake Land Trust
Established in 1994 by the will of landowner Robert M. Davenport, the Lula Lake Land Trust seeks to protect and preserve the natural beauty and abundant resources within the Rock Creek watershed for the benefit of present and future generations by fostering education, research and conservation stewardship of the land. Katherine Eddins, Executive Directors, helps guide the trust towards accomplishing its three main goals: establishing and maintaining an environmental preserve of the watershed, advancing education and research with respect to native plant and animal life in the area, and propagating endemic flora and fauna. Tricia King-Mims is development director.
Lookout Mountain Conservancy
Since 1991, the Lookout Mountain Conservancy has been dedicated to protecting the slopes of Lookout Mountain from invasive plant species, unrestricted signage and other inappropriate uses of the land that had negatively impacted the historical and scenic quality of the area. Though its name has changed over the years, the Lookout Mountain Conservancy has remained constant in its dedication to increase public awareness about the scenic, historic and ecological treasures across all of Lookout Mountain. The organization, under Executive Officer Robyn Carter, seeks to assimilate several tracts of land into the John C. Wilson Park, preserve the old broad gauge rail line, and create a biking and hiking trail from the base of Lookout Mountain in the St. Elmo neighborhood to the top of the mountain.
The Trust for Public Land
A national organization, the Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people to ensure healthy, livable communities for generations to come. In Chattanooga, the organization has worked to create a network of greenways and trails to connect some of Chattanooga’s most cherished natural and cultural resources. Moving forward, The Chattanooga Greenway Master Plan will call for creating greenway trails along the tributaries of the Tennessee River and connecting them to the Riverpark, says TPL Chattanooga Director, Rick Wood. They also have worked to protect the historical and natural resources of the Chickamauga National Military Park, the Cumberland Trail, and the Chickasaw National Wildlife Refuge, among other projects in Tennessee.
Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center
With 317 acres of beautiful forest, field and stream, the Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center ℹ️ encourages visitors to come enjoy a picnic under the trees, paddle a canoe down the creek, or take a vigorous hike on over 15 miles of trails. Executive Director Jennifer Legates helps steer Reflection Riding in promoting environmental stewardship through conservation, education and research and by connecting the people with land, plants and wildlife. Located on the western slope of Lookout Mountain, facilities and offerings of Reflection Riding include a nature center, gift shop, canoe rental, and educational and outdoors classes for adults and children alike.
Audubon Acres, Maclellan Sanctuary & David Gray Sanctuary
As Chattanooga’s oldest conservancy organization, dating back to 1944, the Chattanooga Audubon Society, with the help of Sanctuary Manager Kyle Simpson, oversees three unique wildlife sanctuaries that each bring their own character, history and special features to the community. The Elise Chapin Sanctuary at Audubon Acres serves as the headquarters for the nonprofit and offers visitors 132 acres of diverse wildlife, along with a gift shop, visitor’s center, and museum. The Maclellan Sanctuary on Audubon Island is an 18-acre wildlife sanctuary situated on the Tennessee River in the heart of downtown Chattanooga. Visitors can rent kayaks and paddle boards to get to the island and spend time hiking, bird watching or just relaxing. Finally, the David Gray Sanctuary at Audubon Mountain features about 360 acres of pristine and undeveloped mountainside land in North Hamilton County.
Georgia Land Trust
Under founding organization The Chattowah Open Land Trust, Inc., the Georgia Land Trust is dedicated to protecting land for present and future generations, primarily by helping private landowners establish conservation easements on farm and forest lands. This allows landowners to continue to own and use their land while also limiting the uses of the land to protect its conservation value. Currently, the organization is operating under a strategic 5-goal plan. The organization seeks to monitor 100 percent of conservation easements annually with total compliance, protect an additional 125,000 acres of high conservation value lands, achieve land trust alliance accreditation, maintain and create a professional staff, and raise funds to support more strategic plans in the coming years. Under Executive Director Katherine Eddins, they hope to accomplish all of these goals by 2016.
The Nature Conservancy of Tennessee
The Nature Conservancy, a national organization dedicated to preserving lands across the country for people and nature, has conserved more than 300,000 acres of land and water in Tennessee alone. In addition to preserving the land, the Nature Conservancy has helped create or significantly expand 29 State Natural Areas, 12 State Wildlife Management Areas and two National Wildlife Refuges. With several offices across Tennessee in Nashville, Knoxville and Jackson, the Nature Conservancy will continue to ensure that lands all over the state will continue to flourish for years to come.
The Conservation Fund of Tennessee
In the business of conservation for over 30 years, with over 7,000,000 acres saved nationally, the Conservation Fund in Tennessee has saved 285,280 in the Volunteer State alone. With a passion for conservation and an entrepreneurial spirit, the Conservation Fund works to empower rural communities, invest in sustainable business, and invest in new ways to balance economic and environmental goals. In Tennessee, some of their major preservation efforts have taken place in Nashville, Unicoi County, Brentwood, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, among others.
North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy
Since its official founding in 1993, the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy has helped to conserve over 14,000 acres within and around the North Chickamauga Creek watershed. Through a combination of grants from local and national foundations and contributions and volunteer services from supportive individuals, companies, and organizations, the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy uses all of this support to accomplish common conservation goals. The conservancy is committed to involving the Chattanooga and surrounding community in the preservation, conservation and responsible use of the North Chickamauga Creek watershed and gorge.
Photography by Katie Freeland and David Andrews