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Report to the Members of the Friends of Scott's Gulf

It has been the dream of the Friends of Scott's Gulf to connect the Bridgestone/Firestone Centennial Wilderness to a county road in Big Bottom, which lies at the western end of Scott's Gulf, and also to connect all the BFCW to Fall Creek Falls State Park on both eastern (Bee Creek end) and the western end (Big Bottom end of the Gulf).

We have felt that the Jerry Clark Property was an important piece of the puzzle and would be needed to complete the project. The Jerry Clark Property had been on the market for sometime and was actively being shown to prospective buyers, as well as being advertised in magazines, so the property was very much at risk at being developed.

At some point, in the last two years, we approached Rex Boner of the Conservation Fund to see if he could aid us in purchasing this property and selling it to TWRA, who is responsible for the BFCW. I took Rex and Hugh Bullock to the property and they were interested in helping us. The first thing needed was an appraisal. The Conservation Fund hired a firm to make the appraisal. Unfortunately the appraisal did not meet "Fair Market Value." The appraisal came back at $500.00 per acre for the 194 plus acres. The Clarks' had been asking $200,000.00 for the property, which was appraised in the White County Tax Records for more than $170,000.00. Jerry and Ann Clark did not want to sell their property for any less.

We were disappointed, to say the least, because the deal fell through. This beautiful and unique piece of property runs with the Caney Fork River for 1.75 miles and abounds with wildlife and wild plants on its small acreage.

Last spring, our chapter of the Tennessee Trail Association, (The Upper Cumberland Chapter) was having a hike on the BFCW. I happened to meet Dr. Chuck Womack, and was telling him about the Clark Property and the greenway idea to Fall Creek Falls. If I remember correctly the Clarks had sent me E-Mail, stating they were lowering the price of the property to $150,000.00 for a limited time, but after a certain amount of time, the property was going to be divided into 10 acres tracts and sold at auction.

Dr. Womack, who worked as a volunteer with Tennessee Parks and Greenways, called Kathleen Williams, who is the Executive Director/President of the organization, and Kathleen in turn called me. (Thanks, Dr. Womack; this would not have happened without you) We all got fired up about the possibility of buying the property once again. Kathleen and I started talking about another appraisal, and in a conference call, we talked to one of the men involved in the original appraisal, which was done for the "Conservation Fund". During the conference call, I discovered that the appraiser did not actually set foot on the property (they only drove a vehicle to the property line on the Scott's Gulf Road), and neither did he use any comparables of properties, which were located on water. I think most of his appraisal work was done via telephone.

To me, this was enough to warrant a new appraisal. The Friends of Scott's Gulf hired two new appraisers to reappraise the property. We took them to the property and showed them as much of the property that was possible to see.

They were impressed with the property, and needless to say, after seeing the river frontage and finding comparables of properties, which had sold and were located on water, we got an appraisal of around $800.00 per acre. (One tract of about 60 acres, which partially lies in the flood plain, and is within one mile of the Clark property sold for $250,000.00.)

Much of the Clark property is in the flood plain, but does not flood that often. I saw the Clark property back in 1988 before it grew up in pines, and it looked like a small version of Cades Cove. There is no other property like it in the entire gulf, which gives a view of the mountains above the property. Today the property is covered with pines, multiflora rose, and many native grasses. It has been maintained, by Bruce Clark, a nephew of Jerry Clark, with numerous roads to access the interior of the property. I have often though of building walkways and platforms for wildlife viewing centers throughout the property. These could also used to be able to camp on, as well as view. The platforms would have to be built about the 100-foot flood level zone, so persons could use them safely. I think I mentioned this to Clarence Coffee, when I took him to the property, also along with my idea for possibly making this property, a living classroom.

On a prior trip to the property, I took Kathleen, and another sweet lady, a board member of the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation, who later made a large contribution to this project, but for various reasons wishes to remain anonymous. While on this trip the sweet lady's dog caught a young boar. Thank goodness the boars mother was not in hearing distance.

Our group also paid for having a title search preformed, along with the payment of the title insurance for the property. During the title search it was discovered that the property at one time belonged to TVA. When TVA sold the property, they provided a right-of-way along another road, which was not next to the river and was a much better entrance to the property. This fact was not even known to the Clarks, who had owned the property since 1988. To verify this finding, we hired a surveyor, who I took to the property and he agreed with the findings of the title search.

During all these proceedings, we were keeping the Clarks informed, as to what was happening. The only problem, we had a deadline to meet. Jerry Clark had originally given us a certain amount of time to raise the money and our time was running out. He extended our time by a month. I asked for another month and he said time was running our and he needed to sell the property before winter. We finally agreed on earnest money to extend yet another month. The price was $150,000. We raised $65,000 and the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation paid the rest - $85,000 for the land and $6,000 for their expenses to complete the project.

Finally everything fell into place and we closed the deal, putting the property into the hands of the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation. In addition to the gifts from Friends of Scott's Gulf and the local foundation, Kathleen and her small crew raised some funding one member of the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation board gave $45,000, the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association donated $6,000 to the Foundation, $5,000 from the Norcross Foundation, and in individual gifts. Still we were short to secure the land. Thankfully, the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation has a Land Bank, an account that we may borrow from to make deals like this happen when fundraising falls short. From the Bank, we borrowed $40,000 we needed by August 15 to make this happen. This bank is great for land projects like this but it has to be repaid.

What happens now? Well the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation owns the property. It's protected. But it costs money. The $40,000.00 shortfall has to be repaid. Plus, while the Foundation owns it, they pay taxes on it, and also have it insured. With annual expenses like these, the Foundation cannot afford to own much land, so we are very hopeful that the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will purchase the land from the Foundation at a discounted price. Any funds received in excess of the bank loan will stay in the bank and be available for the next land purchase.

All in all, our group was really pleased in helping to pay almost $70,000.00 in cash and In-Kind Contributions toward the purchase of the Clark Property. And we're also pleased that the Foundation was there to provide the rest of the funding the project needed over $90,000. Thanks to the Foundation, their special board member and the others who gave to make this possible.

We are now only 3800 feet from making the connection to the BFCW. We had hoped for money from a grant application, which Kathleen prepared for the "Forest Legacy Program. I understand this may not be forthcoming at this time without some lobbying on our part, as we came in second out of eleven for the grant. If we get the grant, we would be eligible for over $1,000,000.00 in monies to use toward the purchase of properties in Scott's Gulf.

So much land to save, so little time, so little money.

Thanks to Tennessee Parks and Greenways for their effort to save this property and other properties in Scott's Gulf and Tennessee.

We want to thanks the many people involved in the Friends of Scott's Gulf, who have helped our efforts. Without you nothing would even have been accomplished. It is not a single individual who changes the world, but the multitudes--many which remain nameless, and who are quietly working in the background--who bring about the changes.

Sincerely,

Ross Cardwell, President
Friends of Scott's Gulf
16 West Bockman Way
Sparta, Tennessee 38583


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