Drive along the rolling hills in southern Cumberland County and you'll see a whole lot of nothing in terms of development. There pastoral landscape in the Grassy Cove area on Kemmer Road is unspoiled, just the way Brock Hill likes it.
"My Granny Hill was born here in 1886. Essentially, this is where my branch of the Kemmer family got started. This area here has miraculously survived and not been subdivided or turned into a subdivision like so many other scenic areas," said Hill.
Hill served as mayor of Cumberland County for 16 years and is now the deputy commissioner of parks and conservation for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). Hill joined a host of others Friday morning to celebrate the acquisition of more than 950 acres of scenic property in Grassy Cove along the Cumberland Trail.
"This is very special. It is hard to find places like this in Tennessee today. This was private property and now it will be something that everyone will be able to enjoy," said Hill.
The property was purchased by the non-profit Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation (TennGreen) for $2.1 million and has now been transferred to Tennessee State Parks.
"If you're hiking along Brady Mountain on the Cumberland Trail, you can look at this area from the overlooks and know it will always stay beautiful," said Christie Peterson Henderson, director of land conservation for TennGreen. "We were able to buy this property with money from private donors and took out a loan. We're a small non-profit, so $2.1 million for this project is a whole lot to us."
The purchase not only protects the aesthetic value along the trail. It also protects the environment on the other side of the mountains.
"All the water that hits this property that we bought drains into caves and flows under the mountains and creates the head of the Sequatchie River. If you want to protect your water and your air, protecting forests and land around streams is important. That's exactly what [buying] this property did," said Peterson Henderson.
"I think that we all care because we're preserving and protecting a significant ecosystem and we don't want to lose those kind of things," said Hill.
The project preserves scenery along a completed portion of the ambitious Cumberland Trail project. The scenic path along the Plateau extends hundreds of miles from the Virginia state line at Cumberland Gap down to Chattanooga. Hill said around 10 percent of the land for the planned trail is yet to be purchased.
"The main focus is on the construction of the trail. Once that is done, we will start to work on side trails in places like Grassy Cove," said Hill.
For those able to enjoy the serenity of the beautiful rolling hills, high ridges, and caves at Grassy Cove, a whole lot of nothing will surely be something special.