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Conservation News – 510 Acres Atop Bluff Mountain Now Preserved

510 Acres of Bluff Mountain in Sevier County, TN Now Protected from Commerical Development!

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“I’m so glad that the Foothills Land Conservancy and I worked together to place a conservation easement on this land–known as the Bluff Mountain Ecological Reserve. This agreement enables continuation of the conservation principles my Father, Mother, and I have tried to practice on Bluff Mountain. Hopefully, many others will see fit to do their part to save God’s beautiful Creation.”

Marian Oates
Sevier County Resident

bluff-mountain1On Wednesday, June 24th, 2009,  Marian Oates celebrated her birthday and a few days later, her love of the land, with a donated conservation easement signing on her property. Now 510 acres of ridge tops and mountainsides will be protected in the counties of Sevier and Blount. Local conservation organizations – Foothills Land Conservancy and Legacy Parks Foundation -plan to co-hold the easement and are currently working together on several other projects throughout the East Tennessee region.

Foothills Land Conservancy regrets to mention that Marian Oates passed away in July 2009.

FLC’s Executive Director, Bill Clabough, says that with these types of land protection projects, “You realize it’s not just the vast landscape that can capture the essence of East Tennessee’s diversity, it’s also the people that leave imprints just as poignant. So is the case of Marian E. Oates and her family their patience, foresight, and love of the land over the years will now ensure that the acreage on Bluff Mountain will forever be protected from commercial development and mining practices. He adds, “It’s the ultimate gift a family or individual can give – to allow for the land to stay as is, uninterrupted and in perpetuity  it’s just very special and benefits everybody.”

Throughout the East Tennessee region, one of the most popular preservation methods for land owners is through a conservation easement, a legal contract between a landowner and FLC describing activities that may take place on a property in order to protect the land’s conservation values. Landowners continue to own, use and live on the land. A conservation easement protects property from being developed and owners can always sell, lease, or donate their property.

From atop the east side of Bluff Mountain pictures of civilization emerge from below the twists of roads cut into the hills and building rooftops that reflect the shining sun. To the west, a different story emerges  a window into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with cascading views of Cove Mountain, Clingmans Dome, and the majestic Mount LeConte. Oates often notes the rising and setting suns placement among these mountains ridgelines and can even tell you where they fall for the summer and winter solstices.

She can also point out the former location of her family’s old cabin and the long fallen hotel, once a favorite vacation spot for her grandparents back in the early 1900′s. Called the Dupont Springs Cool Chilhowee Health Resort, it touted the water as having strong mineral properties that contained iron, lithia, and magnesia. It’s this very hotel that inspired her grandparents and their son Frank, to consider the mountain as a permanent holiday spot. Over the next few years Frank developed a land acquisition plan to buy up tracts, gradually building up the necessary road systems. In early 1950′s Marian’s father then purchased the very top of Bluff Mountain for $10,000 and with a bit of patience and much excitement he and his wife, Emma Ree Crooks Oates, built their dream retirement home in 1964.
bluff-mountain2Recently, Ms. Oates endowed the Marian E. Oates Teacher Enrichment Award. This annual award is presented to an outstanding middle-school teacher, which allows the award recipient to collaborate with UT Knoxville faculty researchers on an active environmental research project. She is also in the process of developing a book titled “A Beautiful View” as well as working on a commemorative tile for display at the Sevierville Library.

Ms. Oates is retired after serving as the CEO/Executive Director of the Girl Scouts of Tansai Council, Inc. in Knoxville, Tennessee. Prior to this position she worked for the City of Oak Ridge as a Data Processor and as a Secondary School Teacher (Mathematics, Chemistry, Physical Education) with Atlanta Public Schools in Atlanta, Georgia. Ms. Oates serves as a board member for the East Tennessee Foundation and FLC and is also President of Upper Bluff Mountain Associates. She served as past chair of the Great Smoky Mountains Association, past national board officer for the Association for Partners for Public Lands, and is a 50+ year member of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club. Ms. Oates holds a B.S. in Chemistry and a Masters of Mathematics from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

The mission at Foothills Land Conservancy is to protect, preserve, and enhance the natural landscape along the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains and surrounding areas. Our goal is to protect 25,000 acres by our 25th birthday next year. In 2008 alone, FLC worked with land owners to preserve for future generations over 1900 acres including: farmland, woodlands, native wildlife, public parks, and watersheds. To date, FLC has helped over 58 land owners in protecting a combined 20,000 acres. Foothills also worked with several individuals and organizations to purchase over 10,000 acres  donating that land to the State of Tennessee or the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. FLC is a 501(c)(3) non profit and is not affiliated with any local, state, or federal government.

Legacy Parks Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization which works to assure that our community enjoys exceptional recreational opportunities, natural beauty, and open spaces, and that those assets exist for generations to come. Their mission is to bridge the gap between the services and amenities afforded by government funding and those that allow us to take full advantage of the incredible natural resources of our region. Founded in 2005, the Foundation works in collaboration with the City of Knoxville and Knox County Parks & Recreation Departments and other like-minded organizations to secure funding for land acquisition, park improvements and recreation programs and to provide for and maintain greenway and conservation easements, as well as to advocate for parks and outdoor recreation.

For more information, please contact Bill Clabough, FLC’s Executive Director, at 865-681-8326 or bclabough@foothillsland.org.

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