Non-profit group seeks support

There is an office in Henderson Hall that looks like it started its life as a conference room. This office, over-sized, under-lit and filled with the cool smell of a subterranean basement, is the home of The Alliance for the Cumberlands, a non-profit organization with a vision of a Cumberland Region where conservation doesn’t have to stifle economic growth.The Alliance’s website, describes itself as a partnership of organizations with the common goal of protecting the Cumberland Mountains and Plateau Region of Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, West Virginia and Virginia. The organization is based on campus and is looking to find interested individuals to help spread its message.

“We are trying to find common ground between those who want growth and those who want conservation,” Zebulon Turrentine, The Alliance executive director, said. “We try to build a consensus.”

The Alliance’s mission statement says that it wants to bring people together to achieve the ecologic and economic sustainability of natural and human communities in the Cumberland region.

While based on campus, the organization has limited connections to Tech. Tech President Bob Bell, until the most recent board rotation, served on the board of directors. The Alliance came to Tech after establishing itself as an independent, non-profit organization in 2008, which occurred after spending the previous five years as part of the Tennessee Chapter of Nature Conservancy, and then finding itself without a home.

Katherine Medlock, The Alliance for the Cumberlands’ previous executive director, came to an agreement with Tech officials, and the organization was granted space to set up shop.

“When you work with multiple organizations, they all have their own directions that they move in,” Turrentine said. “It’s difficult to get people involved.”

Despite the difficulties of managing the desires of multiple organizations, The Alliance has come together in an effort to educate others about sustainable markets for eco- and heritage-based tourism in the region.

“By increasing tourism to the Cumberland Plateau, we hope to attract revenue to the region that will give economic value to the natural, cultural and historic resources of the region.”

In an effort to get more people involved, The Alliance has started a forum at www.cumberlands.ning.com they hope will turn into an organic community where people can post their stories and photos of trips throughout the Cumberland area. This is in addition to their website at www.letsgoplateau.com, which contains information about historical and natural areas in the Cumberland Plateau for potential vacationers.

The entirety of The Alliances’ in-office work is currently managed by Turrentine.

“Anybody is welcome,” Turrentine said. “There is so much wealth in just having people interested. As long as there are people who want to get involved, I will put them to work.

“Nobody says anything about the youth,” Turrentine said, “and we’re talking about making a sustainable future. How are we going to make it sustainable if we don’t bring in the youth?”

You can learn more by visiting www.allianceforthecumberlands.org, by attending The Alliance’s fall meeting which takes place from 9:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. next Tuesday, in the J&S Construction Conference Room. To RSVP, e-mail The Alliance at admin@allianceforthecumberlands.org.