Brock Hill, TDEC deputy commissioner of parks and conservation, makes a statement at the dedication ceremony. (Photo: Bob Butters)

On Oct. 20, an official dedication ceremony was held in Sewanee celebrating the addition of 3,075 acres of the recently protected Sherwood Forest tract to South Cumberland State Park.

Officials from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, South Cumberland State Park, and other agencies and organizations gathered at a residence overlooking Lost Cove not far from the tract. This was also the site of that weekend’s Goldenrod Gala event, which successfully raised over $22,000 to fund Friends of South Cumberland programs and initiatives supporting the park.

A five-year project involving a partnership with The Conservation Fund, the state of Tennessee and The Land Trust for Tennessee; funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund; and help from the Open Space Institute resulted in the acquisition of 4,061 acres in Franklin County known as Sherwood Forest. More than 980 acres of the tract were added to Franklin State Forest, with the remainder, adjoining the existing 375-acre Carter State Natural Area, becoming the newest addition to South Cumberland State Park. The tract is home to nine rare plant species, the threatened painted snake coiled forest snail, a natural bridge and prehistoric pictographs.

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With the addition of Sherwood Forest, South Cumberland State Park has officially become Tennessee’s largest state park, totaling 30,837 acres.

Read an earlier article about the project here.

South Cumberland State Park manager George Shinn prepares to cut the ribbon opening the Sherwood Forest Trail. (Photo: Bob Butters)

“This land contains some of Tennessee’s most rare and unique natural and cultural features and deserves our protection,” Brock Hill, TDEC deputy commissioner of parks and conservation, said. “We are proud to preserve what makes this area so special while also creating safe and enjoyable recreation experiences for our visitors to South Cumberland State Park.”

Liz McLaurin, president and CEO of The Land Trust for Tennessee, said:

It is truly inspiring to look out over so much conservation. With the addition of Sherwood Forest to our state’s protected areas, we celebrate over 25,000 acres of contiguous forestland protected through state ownership, university ownership and/or conservation easements. That’s a legacy that we could not have imagined just 10 years ago—something that happened thanks to so many funders and partners.

The view from the overlook on the Sherwood Forest Trail. (Photo: Bob Butters)

Sherwood Forest has also been honored by Gov. Bill Haslam and TDEC as one of 11 winners of the 2017 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award. Learn more about this and the other award winners here.

Following the dedication ceremony, most of the group drove over to the Sherwood Forest trailhead for the ribbon cutting, which officially opened the 3-mile loop trail, still under construction. A half-mile is currently completed, going as far as an overlook with an expansive view of Lost Cove and the Crow Creek watershed, as well as a natural bridge.

In addition, there are several miles of jeep road (the continuation of Old CCC Road beyond the trailhead) available for hiking.

A note of caution for hikers: While remaining open to hiking, Sherwood Forest will be allowing hunting during deer gun season (Nov. 18–Jan. 7) and spring turkey season (March 31–May 13). If you choose to hike during those times, relevant precautions are advised. There is a 100-yard safety zone along any roads or trails in Sherwood Forest.

A South Cumberland ranger and TDEC zoologist David Withers check out the natural bridge at Sherwood Forest. (Photo: Bob Butters)

Hunters are allowed to use ATVs on the jeep road in season. Otherwise, it’s a hiking-only area, with no vehicles, bikes or horses allowed. Being a day-use-only area, gates close at dark. Dogs are allowed on leashes. Other rules for both hikers and hunters are posted at the trailhead kiosk.

GPS coordinates for the trailhead are 35.09782, -85.90075.

In Franklin State Forest, turn off Highway 156 onto the graveled Old CCC Road. In almost 2 miles, you’ll come to a large gravel parking area at the trailhead with a kiosk and trail map. Currently, that is the only map available. Plans are for the map to soon be available for purchase at a small fee, along with possibly a free but less detailed version.

Volunteers needed to complete the trail
Ranger Jason Reynolds needs volunteers to help complete the trail. Currently, workdays are scheduled for Nov. 11, 15 and 22. Click here to learn more or to sign up.

A map of the Sherwood Forest tract. (Map: The Land Trust for Tennessee)

Thursday’s Harvest Dinner benefits The Land Trust for Tennessee
The Feed Co. Table & Tavern in Chattanooga will host a special three-course Harvest Dinner Nov. 9 to benefit The Land Trust for Tennessee, one of the major partners in the Sherwood Forest project. It’s a fun and delicious way to celebrate the fall season and to support the trust’s land conservation work in Southeast Tennessee and across the state.

The event, to take place in The Feed Co.’s new event space, will feature an exclusive seasonal menu paired with rich wines.

Seating is limited, so purchase tickets promptly. Get tickets and more information here.

Bob Butters explores nature and the outdoors, primarily in and near the South Cumberland region, and publishes the blog www.Nickajack-Naturalist.com. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.

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