Join us in celebrating Appalachian Spring!

Highland_outdoorstageJoin us in celebrating 42 years of conservation in our community!

Because of you — our dedicated members, volunteers, and community supporters — we can continue protecting the special places we all love.

Enjoy an evening of celebration and merriment in The Meadow at Highland Brewing Company. Food will be catered by the Green Opportunities Kitchen-Ready Program and music provided by the Screaming J’s Band.

IF you are a current SAHC member and cannot attend the Appalachian Spring celebration, please take a moment to submit this online Proxy Form. As part of the event, the membership will elect nominees to the SAHC Board of Trustees.

Event Ticket Price includes: Small plates, one drink ticket, music and fellowship.
Purchase yoSreamingJsur tickets early to save!

Early bird prices (thru April 30): $25 for SAHC members/ $30 non-members
In advance (after April 30): $30 members/$35 non-members.
At the door: $40 for everyone.

You can purchase raffle tickets online now or during the event. We have a wide selection of exciting prizes to choose from, and proceeds from the sale of raffle tickets will go to support our conservation work.

 

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Thank you to our Event Sponsors!

Eastman

Special Thanks:

  • Buddy Tignor

To become an event sponsor or donate raffle items, contact Cheryl Fowler at cheryl@appalachian.org or 828.253.0095 ext 209.

 

 

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SAHC helps Rocky Fork State Park acquire tract for public access

 

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Rocky Fork Creek

Mist rising in the Rocky Fork watershed.

Mist rising in the Rocky Fork watershed.

Today we celebrate Earth Day with the closing of an exciting new project which will enable more people to learn about and enjoy the incredible Rocky Fork region!

We worked with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to purchase a 1-acre tract to facilitate public access for Rocky Fork State Park.

“This 1-acre tract is a critical acquisition because it contains the only public access into Rocky Fork State Park,” said SAHC Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “We are proud to have been able to work with the State of Tennessee and other partners over the past decade to conserve the 10,000-acre Rocky Fork watershed. This recent acquisition is an integral part of these efforts, as it will afford public access for visitors to enjoy trails and trout streams in this stunning area.”

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Hiking along Rocky Fork Creek.

Rocky Fork State Park lies within a half mile of the Appalachian Trail and contains a system of existing and planned public trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding, including a future connection to the Appalachian Trail. The park also contains pristine mountain streams, including Rocky Fork Creek, Flint Creek, South Indian Creek and the headwaters of Long Branch. The main branch of Rocky Fork, designated as a TN Exceptional Stream, flows through the recently acquired 1-acre tract. These streams are home to native Southern Appalachian Brook Trout and are available to the public for fishing.

The 2,036-acre State Park, together with approximately 8,000 adjoining acres now owned by the US Forest Service, comprise the 10,000-acre Rocky Fork watershed. SAHC worked from 2006-2012 to protect this iconic area, in partnership with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), The Conservation Fund (TCF), the State of Tennessee, the U.S. Forest Service, and other public and private partners. The Tennessee Heritage Conservation Trust Fund provided $6 million for the State of Tennessee to acquire the land for the Park, which was officially designated Tennessee’s 55th State Park in October 2012.

David Ramsey (right) leads an SAHC guided group hike into Rocky Fork.

David Ramsey (right) leads an SAHC guided group hike into Rocky Fork.

“The partnership between the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and Tennessee State Parks has been pivotal to preserve and protect the unique and critical tracts of land in the southern Appalachian Mountains,” said Park Manager Jesse Germeraad. “This 1-acre tract is very important, because it provides Rocky Fork State Park, visitors, and Appalachian National Scenic Trail hikers access to the beautiful and pristine natural and historical resources Rocky Fork State Park and the Cherokee National Forest has to offer in the Rocky Fork Watershed. We are looking forward to the continued support and partnership we have with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.”

Yonahlossee salamander, photo courtesy David A. Ramsey.

Yonahlossee salamander, photo courtesy David A. Ramsey.

Several federally listed endangered species can be found within Rocky Fork State Park. The diverse cove forest is home to the Peregrine Falcon, the Yonahlossee Salamander, and the Woodland Jumping Mouse, as well as many native wildflowers. The property is also part of the Unicoi Bear Sanctuary and lies within an Audubon Important Bird Area.

Currently there is very limited parking. Long-term goals for the newly acquired 1-acre parcel at the Park entrance include improvements for an expanded parking area and visitor center.

Categories: Land Protection Updates | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Partnerships in Education & Stewardship – Tilson Homeplace Work Day

TilsonFarmworkdayConservation doesn’t end with recording a land protection document. Stewardship of protected lands extends in perpetuity, and sometimes requires remediation of past problems for a property. Dedicated East TN State Univ. students responded to our call for a “Service Saturday”, helping clean up debris from illicit dumping on a protected, historic TN property.

The benefits of working with these student volunteers extended far beyond the impressive mountains of trash pulled out of waterways and forests. Through our partnership, the students glimpsed some of the challenges of managing natural resources — in this case, hundreds of acres bordered by a public road.

During the workday, volunteers tackled heaps of trash and debris that for decades had been dumped from cars on the public route encircling the 377-acre cove. Illegally-dumped debris had accumulated in gullies and on hillsides of this secluded corner in Unicoi County, which features the historic homestead of US House Representative and majority leader John Q. Tilson.

Landowners and caretakers Ken and Lotta Murray have been steadily reducing these debris piles for years, but the situation required a concerted effort to make a big impact.

By the end of the day, our trash-removal efforts overflowed a dumpster-trailer, a second trailer bed, and a truck bed. Our team of ten removed a total of 1,300 pounds of assorted trash and debris from the conservation easement property, along with a number of tires — including one from a Model-T Ford.

Impressed by their impact, the students began talking about organizing other cleanups on campus and in the region. It is empowering to tackle a problem with such a visible result, and that empowerment is contagious!

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Round Bald Kiosk Installation

Volunteers prepare the kiosk site.

Volunteers prepare the kiosk site.

The Highlands of Roan are home to some of the most unique and globally rare ecosystems in the world, including montane grassy balds and spruce-fir communities. The Highlands are also one of the richest repositories of biodiversity in the southern Appalachians and support many rare plant and animal populations, including both state and federally-listed species. SAHC and our partners recognize that as recreational uses in the Roan increase, so does the importance of educating users about environmentally conscientious hiking and camping practices. Last summer, SAHC and our partners took a step toward doing just that by building an educational kiosk at the entrance to the Trail on Round Bald, near the popular Carvers Gap access.

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Inserting the educational posters.

The construction of this kiosk was made possible by the cooperation of many partners. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Tennessee license plate grant program provided SAHC with funds for purchasing the bulk of building materials. The US Forest Service, Pisgah National Forest constructed the kiosks, and the Cherokee National Forest created the posters. Eastman Chemical Company donated Spectar© UV-resistant plastic to cover the posters. The final installation and gravel work was completed by volunteers from SAHC and Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club.

We hope the kiosk will be a helpful educational resource and we look forward to working with all of our partners on future educational projects in the Roan!

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Cold Mountain Game Lands Assist

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Newly protected Caldwell Tract, adjoining the Cold Mountain Game Lands in SAHC’s Balsam Mountains Focus Area.

We assisted the NC Wildlife Resources Commission in purchasing a 64-acre tract adjoining the Cold Mountain Game Lands near Lake Logan.

The forested tract, formerly owned by the Caldwell family, adjoins the Cold Mountain Game Lands and Significant Natural Heritage Areas, ranging in elevation from 3,400 – 4,000 feet.

It was purchased by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NC WRC) for addition to the Cold Mountain Game Lands.  Ownership by the state agency will help reduce land fragmentation and ensure that this area is protected and properly managed.

SAHC and NC WRC staff visit the property.

SAHC and NC WRC staff visit the property.

Timber on the property includes large yellow poplar, oak, and black cherry trees, and common wildlife species found on the tract include grouse, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, black bear, various songbirds, salamanders, and small mammals.

Protection of this tract was made possible through the partnership of SAHC and NC WRC. We assisted in the purchase by raising 25% of the purchase price through private philanthropic gifts.

The property will be open to the public for recreational opportunities, including hunting, hiking, bird-watching, and photography.

SAHC’s Land Protection in the Cold Mountain Area

Our assistance in helping NC WRC acquire this tract for the Cold Mountain Game Lands is part of ongoing conservation efforts in our Balsam Mountains Focus Area. The Balsam Mountains contain some of the most recognized public lands in the Southern Appalachians, including the Shining Rock Wilderness, Cold Mountain Game Lands and Mount Pisgah.  They are a biodiversity hotspot and critical wildlife corridor between the Nantahala National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, characterized by fertile cove forests, rich species diversity, and hardwood forests.  IMG_3724

Since 1999, we have protected nearly 11,000 acres in this area.

We hold conservation easements on more than 800 acres on Crawford Creek on the east side of Cold Mountain adjoining the Shining Rock Wilderness and the  8,000-acre Waynesville watershed (co-held with the Conservation Trust for NC).

SAHC is committed for the long haul to protecting more tracts in this iconic location.

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Winter Tree I.D. Hike

Earlier this winter, naturalist Luke Cannon joined SAHC hikers to explore the beautiful Rough Creek Watershed in Canton, NC. In 2003, a conservation easement was placed on the watershed in a joint effort by SAHC and the State of North Carolina to protect 870 acres of near-pristine ecosystems and close to seven miles of streams containing water of outstanding quality. This large tract of land encompasses 12 distinct plant communities, and we hiked primarily through the predominating Rich and Acidic Cove Forests and Montane-Oak Hickory Forest.

Our goal that day was to use the winter season to our advantage to learn some new skills in identifying deciduous trees in winter, when their biggest clues—the leaves—are missing. We had overwhelming interest in this educational outing with Luke, who is not only extremely knowledgeable, but an excellent storyteller. He also did a wonderful job fostering involvement and interaction amongst members of the group.

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Luke Cannon teaching the group

Following the impressive 8+ inches of snow we had received the weekend before, everyone seemed thrilled to get outside on a warm, sunny day. However, where the sun hadn’t easily reached, there was still ample evidence of the winter deluge the week before. As we began hiking upwards into the watershed, we could hear Rough Creek rushing in between snow-covered banks along our right-hand side, higher than usual from snowmelt.

One of the first trees we saw was an apple tree, reminiscent of the history of the property where early Appalachian settlers established homesteads and a school in the late 1800s. Luke explained how the specific tree composition of the area is reflective of a history of being cleared by these settlers. An abundance of black locust in particular, an early successional tree, illuminates the area’s past, while the fact that oaks and other trees have begun to grow up and dominate the canopy gives some indication of the length of time that has elapsed since the land was cleared.

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Trees in Winter [Photo: Kristy Lapidus]

As we walked, we learned some identifying features of the trees we passed: the “llama-faced” leaf scars of the black walnut, the deeply furrowed bark of the black locust, and the shiny, shedding pieces of yellow birch bark. But in addition to all of this “textbook knowledge,” one of the most inspirational and helpful things Luke taught the group was that names and scientific notations don’t matter for personal tree identification. Anyone can learn to identify trees when they start to notice a recurring feature, and you can call it whatever you want. For example, lots of kids he has worked with start to recognize the “Watermelon Tree” popping up over and over—and that is in itself a form of identification. Once you’ve learned to recognize certain trees, you can begin to learn their common names if you are interested (the watermelon tree is really the striped maple), or even their Latin names if you are so inclined (in this case, Acer pensylvanicum).

 

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View of the Smokies [Photo: Kristy Lapidus]

After exploring and examining trees most of the day, we had a chance to walk along the western edge of the property for a spectacular view out towards the Smokies before descending the trail back home. Our hikers and staff who attended had such an amazing time, and we are so thankful to Luke Cannon for sharing his expertise and time with us!

Look for some more exciting educational hikes to come this year, starting with our Hike with the Hemlock Restoration Initiative on March 20, 2016. Email haley@appalachian.org to register, or call (828) 253-0095, ext. 205. We hope to see you out there!

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A Happy Group of Hikers and Learners!

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Feral Hogs in the Roan — Update

Hog damage on Big Yellow. Feral hogs destroy fragile habitats and threaten the health of native species and ecosystems in the Roan.

Hog damage on Big Yellow. Feral hogs destroy fragile habitats and threaten the health of native species and ecosystems in the Highlands of Roan.

SAHC and our Roan Stewardship partners met in summer 2014 to discuss the growing threat posed by the invasion of feral hogs into our mountain landscapes and how to combat their spread. These non-native animals threaten the health of our ecosystems including impacting rare species, destroying fragile habitats, and contaminating water sources. Since then, we and our partners have made important strides in addressing the issue of feral hogs in the Roan.

“Working with our partners, including USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – Wildlife Services (APHIS), we began initial monitoring and trapping efforts on the Roan in winter 2014,” said Crockett. Those efforts were quite successful — hogs were documented, trapped, tested for disease, and removed from both Mitchell and Avery counties. A number of trapped hogs tested positive for either Swine brucellosis or Pseudorabies.

Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett investigates feral hog damage.

Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett investigates feral hog damage.

“Feral hogs can spread disease to humans, our pets, and livestock,” added Crockett.

About the same time that SAHC and our partners began coordinating efforts in the Roan, the problems caused by feral hogs gained national attention. In 2015, APHIS received federal funding to implement a collaborative, national feral swine management program in all 39 states where there is a recognized feral swine population.  The overarching goal of this APHIS National Feral Swine Damage Management Program is to protect agricultural and natural resources, property, animal health, and human health and safety by reducing feral swine populations in the United States.

“APHIS will reduce problems by suppressing populations in states where feral swine populations are large and widely distributed,” explained Crockett. “In States where feral swine are emerging or populations are low, APHIS will cooperate with local partners to implement strategies to eliminate them.  SAHC’s existing, multi-agency partnerships in the Roan qualified us to submit the Roan Highlands project for consideration under the new APHIS program.”

SAHC is working with a variety of partners in the regional Roan Feral Hog Working Group, to monitor and address feral hog impact in the Highlands of Roan.

SAHC is working with a variety of partners in the regional Roan Feral Hog Working Group, to monitor and address feral hog impact in the Highlands of Roan.

Our submission was approved for 2015-2016, and the Roan Highlands project is now up and running.  We have more than 12 agencies and organizations (and several private individuals) actively contributing to trapping, monitoring, and research efforts on the Roan — including USDA APHIS (North Carolina), USDA APHIS (Tennessee), Pisgah National Forest, Cherokee National Forest, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, North Carolina State Parks, Tennessee State Parks, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (natural areas), Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the Nature Conservancy, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and Virginia Tech.

In 2016, SAHC will continue to coordinate the Roan Feral Hog Working Group and support trapping and monitoring work. We hired Kaitlin Shannon, an intern from UNC Asheville, to install and check wildlife cameras for hog activity, and we are partnering with students from Virginia Tech and other universities to study hog diet and movement on the Roan.  This year, we will also work with our partners to focus on educating landowners, farmers, hunters, and recreationists about the dangers and impacts posed by feral hogs.

“By using a large-scale, multi-agency approach, we hope to eradicate this destructive species from our mountains,” concluded Crockett.

Want to Learn More?

Educational Program: “Feral Hogs in the Roan Highlands — Impacts, Ecology, and Eradication Efforts

SAHC will host a free, public presentation on feral hogs in the Roan on  Wednesday March 9 from noon – 1:30 pm at the Kingsport Renaissance Center (Room 228), 1200 East Center Street, Kingsport, TN 37660.

Join us as Marquette Crockett, SAHC Roan Stewardship Director covers the history, basic biology, and environmental impacts of invasive feral hogs at the regional and local level. Joined by Scott Dykes of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, she will also discuss how SAHC, along with our state and federal partners, are using a large-scale, multi-agency approach to eradicate this destructive species from the Highlands of Roan.

This educational program is free and open to the public. Reservations are encouraged. Please respond to Pauline at pauline@appalachian.org or 828.253.0095 ext. 216 if you plan to attend. Bringing your lunch is encouraged. 

 

Perspective – On the Roan with Roan Stewardship Intern Kaitlin Shannon

Kaitlin Shannon experiments with natural camouflage as she helps install and monitor wildlife cameras to track feral hog activity.

Kaitlin Shannon experiments with natural camouflage as she helps install and monitor wildlife cameras to track feral hog activity.

“As a current student at UNC Asheville, it has been my pleasure to serve an internship with SAHC. In May I will complete my B.S. in Environmental Studies, with a concentration in Ecology and Field Biology. For me, this internship has been a segway from the classroom into the hands-on approach of conservation field work. I worked in conjunction with graduate students of Virginia Tech and members of APHIS to design a study to monitor feral hog populations in and around the Roan Highl

ands. It’s been my job to hike to the specified locations and set up wildlife cameras to detect the presence of hogs — which is important because once we have noted where the majority of the hog populations are located, we can more effectively plan to remove them.

I’ve gained experience with so much more than simply helping to design a study. Most importantly I’ve been able to surround myself with the land that SAHC works so diligently to protect. It’s clear as you ascend to the peak of Big Yellow that you’re standing in a very special, sacred place. The damage caused by these hogs cannot go unnoticed, and I am honored to be apart of a team working to mend such an important place.

SAHC is such a unique land trust and I encourage anyone who is curious about the work that they do to take the time to volunteer.”

Categories: Conservation Field Journal, Volunteer & Stewardship Activities | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stanley A. Murray, Inducted into Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame

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Stanley A. Murray, SAHC’s founder.

SAHC founder Stan Murray was inducted into the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame last year, and retired Roan Stewardship Director Judy Murray traveled to Boiling Springs, PA (the “Half-way” point on the AT) to accept the award in his behalf.

Stanley A. Murray, along with Benton McKaye and Myron Avery, was one of the most important individuals in the early history of the Appalachian Trail.

When construction of the Appalachian Trail was first “completed” in 1937, it was about 45% on private property, and Myron Avery, while proclaiming the trail “finished,” stated that it would never be really finished until it received Federal protection.
Decades later, Stanley A. Murray worked to accomplish just that.  He wrote a draft bill and lobbied Congress, playing a major role in getting the National Trails System Act passed in 1968. Murray served as Chairman of the Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC) for 14 years.

Stan Murray Memorial plaque at Houston Ridge, along the AT

Stan Murray Memorial plaque at Houston Ridge, along the AT

He envisioned more than just a narrow footpath for the AT, and advocated the “greenway” concept to protect a wider corridor around the Trail. Murray was especially concerned with how to preserve Roan Mountain and the balds in the Highlands of Roan on the NC/TN state line, and personally focused much of his energy on that area of the AT.  His work on the Tennessee Eastman Hiking Club’s relocation of the AT over Roan and the formation of the ATC’s Roan Mountain Preservation Committee in 1966 led to the 1974 incorporation of SAHC with the goal of protecting thousands of acres along the Roan Mountain Massif from development. Murray served as President of SAHC for 11 years and was the first Executive Director. He passed away in 1990 at the age of 67.

“To have this prestigious honor conferred on our organization’s founder is indeed thrilling,” said Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “We are proud to continue his legacy of land protection in this unique, treasured landscape, and are gratified that the importance of Stan’s work has been recognized nationally.”

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Federal Legislation: Conservation Tax Incentives and the Land & Water Conservation Fund

Protection of Rocky Fork Creek was made possible by the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Photo by Ken Maness.

Protection of Rocky Fork Creek was made possible by the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Photo by Ken Maness.

In December, the US Congress passed and the president signed into law legislation making the enhanced tax incentive for conservation easement donations permanent.

First enacted as a temporary provision in 2006 (which expired in 2014), the incentive grants certain tax benefits to landowners who sign a conservation easement. In a strong bipartisan action, the House voted 318-109 and the Senate voted 65-33 to pass the bills that included the tax incentive.

Also in December, Congress passed an omnibus spending bill that included temporary, 3-year reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which had expired in September.

“Looking forward we all need to make sure that Congress understands that short-term fixes are welcome, but that our threatened natural heritage calls for a permanent solution,” said SAHC Trustee Jay Leutze. “I’m really proud that several members of our region’s Congressional delegation stood up and let leadership in both houses know how important public land is here at home.”

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Hampton Creek Cove, A Hidden Gem in Tennessee

Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area

Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area

The 693-acre Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area (HCC SNA) is a breathtaking haven for wildlife with ample opportunity for outdoor recreation. Time spent visiting the pastoral cove, trekking the miles of hiking trails, or fishing cold trout streams will be well spent. Check out these recent updates from the cove!

Golden-winged Warbler Habitat Restoration

Golden-winged Warbler, a neotropical migratory songbird.

Golden-winged Warbler, a neotropical migratory songbird.

Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area is one of only three state natural areas in the Blue Ridge province of Tennessee and is home to one of the largest breeding populations of Golden-winged Warblers (GWWA) in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The Golden-winged Warbler is a species in need of additional conservation management, and is undergoing review by the US Fish and Wildlife Service for potential listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. Because HCC is so important to this warbler, the National Audubon Society designated it an “Important Bird Area” in 2005. The Golden-winged Warbler, along with many other important game and non-game bird species, relies on early successional, scrubby habitats for breeding and nesting. Past efforts to restore early successional habitat in Hampton Creek Cove SNA have focused on shrub management, tree thinning, and native grass restoration.

In 2015, SAHC and our partners at North Carolina Audubon and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation received a generous grant from the Tennessee State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, which enabled us to manage seven acres of early successional habitat in HCC.  The newly managed area is adjacent to a field that was previously restored by mowing and native grass restoration. It also adjoins habitat known to occupied by GWWA. We believe our recent work in this area will provide immediate benefits to the species.

Installation of Hiker Stiles

Multiple publicly-accessible hiking trails cross through the cove.

Multiple publicly-accessible hiking trails cross through the cove.

Several trails traverse Hampton Creek Cove SNA. The Birchfield Trail and the Shell Hollow Trail are popular birding spots, due to the variety of habitats found along their routes.  The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail — the historic route of the Overmountain Men in their march to the Revolutionary War’s 1780 Battle of King’s Mountain — also runs through the cove. Because the trails at Hampton Creek Cove traverse agricultural areas, hikers must pass through a series of farm gates. These gates can be difficult to open and can be left open, allowing livestock to enter areas where they should not be, and potentially injuring themselves or causing damage to sensitive wildlife species.

The hiker stiles in HCC were designed and built by Paul Cremer of Carolina Trailbuilders, from Weaverville, NC.

The hiker stiles in HCC were designed and built by Paul Cremer of Carolina Trailbuilders, from Weaverville, NC.

We installed three hiker stiles on the busiest sections of trail in HCC. The stiles are based on a design that has been used successfully along the Appalachian Trail in Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area, VA. This design does not require hikers to climb over fencing (a safety hazard) and is built to ensure that the gate will swing closed even if a hiker forgets to latch it behind him or her. Our work was sponsored by a grant from the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation “connections” grant program which funds greenway or trail projects connecting nearby communities to Tennessee’s beautiful State Parks and Natural Areas. Since 1999, the Tennessee State Park Connections program has awarded over 193 grants statewide totaling over $300,000.

Small Game Hunting

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Wild Turkey. Photo courtesy of Witt Langstaff, Jr.

In fall 2015, the State of TN reopened Hampton Creek Cove SNA for hunting on a limited basis. Hunters are allowed to take wild turkey, grouse, rabbits, squirrel and other small game. Deer hunting (archery only) has also been authorized for the site. No dogs, ATVs, or other motorized vehicles are allowed in the natural area and hunting must be conducted in accordance with current State of Tennessee Hunting Seasons and Regulations.

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