Privately owned Cummins Falls may be on its way to becoming a state park, thanks to support from Tech students and area residents. The 75-foot-tall waterfall and surrounding forest located in Jackson County on the Blackburn Fork River has been named a priority for Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation, whose mission is to save the natural treasures of Tennessee.
“Cummins Falls is the eighth largest of 640 waterfalls in Tennessee and the first largest in private ownership,” said Kathleen Williams, Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation president and executive director.
In May of last year, 186 acres of the northeast side of Blackburn Fork River, home to Cummins Falls, was sold at public auction to Cookeville resident, Dr. Glenn Hall. Hall agreed to give Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation until June 16, 2011 to buy the land from him.
Having already raised over half the money needed, Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation is primarily looking to Tech students and alumni and residents of Nashville, Cookeville and surrounding areas to help achieve the monetary goal of $1.3 million, according to Williams.
“There is great support in Cookeville,” Williams said. “Cummins Falls is a boost for the local economy due to tourism.”
She continued by explaining that support from Nashville was also significant.
“When most people from Nashville think about hiking,” Williams said, “they think they have to go far away. This will be the closest state park to Nashville.”
Coordinating the fundraising and representing Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation at Tech and in Cookeville are Bill Hedderick, junior wildlife major, and Colby Paul, senior agriculture major.
“Tech students basically live down there when there is nice weather,” Hedderick said.
He also said he and others have been using means such as working booths at Tech sporting events and selling T-shirts and bumper stickers to increase awareness and funds, placing considerable emphasis on getting Tech alumni involved.
“We’re trying to raise at least $5,686, which is what an acre costs,” Paul said.
According to Paul, Tech students can stay updated and get involved via the Facebook page dedicated to the project.
Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation is currently hosting hikes at the future state park on the first Saturday of each month at 10 a.m. Pre-registration is required.
For more information, visit www.tenngreen.org or call 651-386-3171.