UPPER CUMBERLAND – The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), in support of TennGreen Land Conservancy and the Open Space Institute, today announced the acquisition of 358 acres in Rhea County known as Piney River Bluffs to expand the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park.
Piney River Bluffs is less than two miles from Spring City and is a high-priority acquisition for the linear state park.
The acquisition completes the protection of an 11-mile trail section through Piney River Gorge, among the most remote experiences on the Cumberland Trail. The acquisition also finalizes the Cumberland Trail connection to Soak Creek State Scenic River, to fully join 30 additional miles of the trail network in Rhea and Cumberland counties. With the acquisition, the Cumberland Trail extends nearly 300 miles through 11 counties.
“This is an outstanding addition to a unique state park,” said TDEC Commissioner David Salyers. “This is a major step in conservation and preservation of natural beauty for the trail. We are grateful to TennGreen Land Conservancy and the Open Space Institute for their partnership on this project.”
The acquisition of Piney River Bluffs conserves significant forested habitat. It lies within the Cradle of Southern Appalachia, a tri-state, collaborative landscape conservation blueprint spearheaded by the Thrive Regional Partnership. The property lies along the Cumberland Plateau.
The acquisition connects the Cumberland Trail to the 816-acre Piney Falls State Natural Area, leading the trail into Cumberland County.
Piney River Bluffs marks the first project in the Southeast supported by the Open Space Institute’s Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund, which focuses on protection along the Appalachian Mountain range – home of the world’s largest broadleaf forest. This region stores most of the nation’s forest carbon while providing essential climate refuge for plants and animals. The fund is made possible thanks to major support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and additional funding from Lyndhurst, Riverview and Tucker foundations, and the McKee family from Collegedale, TN.
“The successful conservation of Piney River Bluffs is a resounding victory in the long-term effort to protect the fragile forests of the Southeast’s Appalachian Mountain region in the face of a changing climate,” said Joel Houser, OSI’s Southeast field coordinator. “This great conservation project came together thanks to a strong public-private partnership, and we thank the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and TennGreen Land Conservancy for their efforts in securing this resounding win on behalf of the people of Tennessee.”
The acquisition expands TennGreen’s extensive conservation footprint in the region. Since 1998, TennGreen has conserved more than 14,000 acres within Rhea and adjacent counties.
“TennGreen is pleased to assist with this significant project in East Tennessee,” said Christie Henderson, director of land conservation for TennGreen Land Conservancy. “Piney River Bluffs represents one of our state’s best examples of conservation land – beautiful forests and rivers protecting hiking lands.”
More information about the project can be found at tenngreen.org.