Volunteerism protects, preserves shared natural resources
National Public Lands Day is the nation’s largest one-day, volunteer stewardship event. Organizers seek to honor the legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps in protecting America’s public lands. Last year, more than 110,000 volunteers across the country built trails, planted trees and removed litter to improve America’s shared lands for all who visit them.
“Tennessee State Parks and the department’s Resource Management Division have a tradition of organizing a statewide volunteer effort in observance of National Public Lands Day,” said Environment and Conservation Commissioner Jim Fyke. “A number of state parks and natural areas will host volunteers throughout Tennessee, joining thousands across the country working to safeguard these lands not only for themselves, but for future generations.”
National Public Lands Day began in 1994 with just three federal agencies and 700 volunteers. Today, this annual program of the National Environmental Education Foundation has grown to involve more than 100,000 volunteers at over 1,800 locations in every state across the nation. Chartered by Congress in 1990, the National Environmental Education Foundation is a private, nonprofit organization that develops and supports environmental learning programs to meet social goals and build partnerships among government, the private sector and non-governmental organizations. Those interested in organizing a National Public Lands Day project or volunteering can call 800-VOL-TEER (800-865-8337), or go to www.publiclandsday.org.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation will sponsor a number of volunteer stewardship projects across the state in recognition of Public Lands Day. A particular focus during this year’s observance is the important role that water quality plays in preserving public lands. Public Lands Day activities planned in Tennessee on Saturday, Sept. 26 include:
In Middle Tennessee:
- Bledsoe Creek State Park – The Friends of Bledsoe Creek State Park will host shoreline, stream, garden and trail cleanup efforts, removing old fencing from the woods and invasive species. For more information, contact Sharon Armistead at (615) 347-3639.
- Cordell Hull Birthplace State Park – Volunteers will meet at 9 a.m. (CDT) at the Bunkum Cave Trail Head parking lot for a trail maintenance effort. Participants are asked to wear long pants and sturdy shoes. Gloves, tools, snacks and water will be provided. An optional guided hike on the scenic Bunkum Cave Trail will follow the volunteer event. For more information, contact Robin Peeler at (931) 864-3247.
- David Crockett State Park – Join park staff for Shoal Creek cleanup and maintenance efforts along the Shoal Creek Trail from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (CDT). Volunteers also will conduct some trail repair and trail marking. Participants should wear weather-appropriate clothing and sturdy shoes, in addition to bringing their own gloves, water and a snack. Volunteers will meet at the park’s visitors center. Please RSVP by contacting Rachel Bridges at or at (931) 762-9408.
- Short Springs State Natural Area – Resource Management Division staff will conduct trail maintenance work starting at 9 a.m. (CDT) at the Short Springs Natural Area located outside of Tullahoma. Volunteers will meet at the parking area under the water tower on Short Spring Road. The trail is approximately three miles and volunteers will trim brush and renovate the trail. The event will be canceled if inclement weathers sets in or is predicted, so please consult weather reports before leaving. Participants are asked to dress in layers, wear sturdy boots and bring lunch and plenty of water. Please RSVP by September 25 to Forrest Evans at or call (615) 532-0431.
- Tims Ford State Park – Join the Tims Ford Environmental Education Association from 9 a.m. to noon (CDT) for a shoreline and island cleanup effort on the Elk River. Volunteers should wear long pants and sturdy shoes, and bring gloves, water and a snack. To RSVP or for additional information, please call LouAnn Partington by September 23 at (931) 393-4835.
In East Tennessee:
- Cumberland Trail State Park – Volunteers will construct wooden steps at Signal Point in the Signal Mountain area, located at the southern terminus of the 300-mile Cumberland Scenic Trail. Volunteers will need to bring their own work gloves, lunch and water. Please register for this event at . For more information, contact Tony Hook at (931) 456-6259.
- Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area – The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy will sponsor a trail maintenance opportunity at the Shell Hollow and Birchfield Trails from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (EDT). All tools will be provided, but volunteers are asked to wear sturdy footgear, long pants, and bring work gloves, food and water. During a scheduled lunch break, participants will learn about the habitat project for golden-winged warblers. Registration is required and participants are asked to provide a contact number in case of cancellation due to weather. Please RSVP to Judy Murray by September 23 at or (423) 323-4993.
- Warriors’ Path State Park – Join park staff for a trash pickup on the trail, around the lake and in the campground. For more information, please contact Scott Crick at (423) 239-8531.
In West Tennessee:
- Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park – Join The Friends of Nathan Bedford Forrest for a lakefront cleanup from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (CDT). Volunteers should meet at the park office and wear sturdy shoes and long pants. In addition, participants are asked to bring their own work gloves, water and a snack. For more information, please contact Alisa Blackmon at (731) 441-1444.
- Paris Landing State Park – Celebrate Public Lands Day at Camp Hazlewood from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (CDT). Volunteers should bring a friend and work clothes for a day of restoring walking trails to the lake or the horse riding area. The park will have “vendors” from the past, conducting quilting, woodworking, basket and broom-making demonstrations. There also will be canoe rides, bird and reptile shows, migration bird games, recreational games and much more. Concessions will be available for sale. For more information, please contact Dawn Gale at (731) 697-3022.
- Riverwoods State Natural Area – Join state naturalists from 9 a.m. to noon (CDT) for an invasive species removal effort at Riverwoods, a 21-acre natural area located along the Wolf River in Germantown just outside of Memphis. Channelization of the Wolf River has greatly reduced flooding in the area, which has caused drying of forest soils and has fostered the spread of invasive species. To date, 21 species of invasive exotic plants have been identified in the natural area, though privet and Japanese honeysuckle are the biggest threat. Volunteers are asked to bring their own gloves and loppers or handsaws to cut privet stems. Sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and pants are recommended. Volunteers should also bring a snack and water. Please RSVP to Allan Trently at or (731) 512-1369.
For more information, including descriptions, maps and directions, for these or any of Tennessee’s 80 designated state natural areas, visit the Web site at www.tn.gov/environment/na. For more information about Tennessee State Parks, please visit www.tnstateparks.com.