Dozens of nature enthusiasts, hikers, state officials, nonprofit agency personnel and Cumberland County residents descended into Grassy Cove last Friday to celebrate the official transfer of 956 acres of land in the cove to the state.

The special event commemorated Tennessee Parks & Greenways Foundation (TennGreen's) transfer of 956 acres of Karst Forest at Grassy Cove to the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park.

The celebration also honored all those whose donations made the land-saving project possible.

The Grassy Cove Community Center hosted the crowd.

"It's a great occasion when the state, (nonprofit) agencies and private donors all work together and a plan comes to fruition. To come out here and see the land and what we're protecting, it's wonderful," Steve Law, executive director, of TennGreen said.

The land was sold to the foundation by the Kemmer family of Grassy Cove in a deal that took nearly four years to happen. The land has been owned by the Kemmer family since the early 1800s.

Tommy Kemmer credited Levonn Hubbard of Crossville, who is a member of the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation, with getting him together with TennGreen.

TennGreen raised more than $2,229,000 for the preservation project.

A significant amount of the fundraising success of the campaign was due to the support of the Department of Interior and the U.S. Forest Service, who ranked this project (The Karst Forest at Grassy Cove) ninth in the country to receive funding through the Forest Legacy Grant program. 

Funding for the Karst Forest at Grassy Cove project was included in the fiscal year 2017 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, which funds the Department of Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies.

Receiving the funds allowed TennGreen to further the effort through an additional grant of $600,000 from the Open Space Institute’s Resilient Landscapes Initiative and Southern Cumberland Land Protection Fund. 

The Grassy Cove project was supported through the Open Space Institute’s Resilient Landscapes Initiative and Southern Cumberland Protection Fund, which are made possible with funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Lyndhurst Foundation, Benwood Foundation and Merck Family Fund. These initiatives seek to build capacity of land trusts working to respond to climate change.

More than $250,000 was contributed by individuals and private foundations, many inspired by the late Shirley Caldwell-Patterson’s generous challenge gift. The gifts ranged from $15 to $100,000.

In 1998, the state of Tennessee established the Cumberland Trail State Park, a linear park that will eventually encompass the 300-mile Cumberland Trail (the trail is still currently under construction). The trail now includes the 15-mile "Grassy Cove Segment" that traverses the crests of Black Mountain and Brady Mountain. Additionally, the 1,000-acre property shares nearly two miles of its boundary with the trail. Scenic views from the trail feature Grassy Cove.

During the dedication, Law addressed the crowd as well as Joel Houser of the Open Space Institute; Jere Jeter of the Tennessee Division of Forestry, Department of Agriculture; Dr. Shari L. Megreblian (TDEC); and Brock Hill of Tennessee State Parks to speak about the $2.1 million project.


Gary Nelson may be reached at

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