More than 200 acres of land along the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River in Cookeville will officially become Tennessee’s 54th state park with a dedication ceremony at the site today. reports the Tennessean. The dedication comes as the state park system celebrates its 75th anniversary.
Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation acquired Cummins Falls in an auction for about $1.5 million.
“We bought it hoping for this outcome, but we’re a pretty brave little group,” said Kathleen Williams, president and CEO of the foundation. “We just took a chance that we could make this happen. We’ve never had the privilege of having some of our work result in the creation of a new state park, and we’re just thrilled about it.”
UPDATE NOTE: The Gov’s press released, issued after the dedication, is below.
News release from the governor’s office:
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau today joined members of the General Assembly, local elected officials and members of the community to dedicate the newly created Cummins Falls State Park, the 54th addition to the Tennessee State Parks system.
“I want to extend my congratulations to the citizens of both Jackson and Putnam counties who rallied in support of preserving and protecting Cummins Falls as a state park, opening up to the public a beautiful, one-of-a-kind landmark for use today and for future generations,” Gov. Haslam said. “Cummins Falls will not only serve as a constant reminder of the natural beauty Tennessee has to offer, this new state park will continue to demonstrate how private/public partnerships can work together to make a difference.”
Located on the beautiful Blackburn Fork State Scenic River, this idyllic 211-acre site in Jackson County is home to Tennessee’s eighth largest waterfall at 75 feet high. Cummins Falls is formed on the Eastern Highland Rim and has been a favorite scenic spot and swimming hole for residents of Jackson and Putnam counties for more than 100 years. Cummins Falls also has been listed as one of the ten best swimming holes in the United States by Travel and Leisure magazine.
The addition of the new park at Cummins Fall was made possible through the leadership of Gov. Haslam, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and through the coordinating efforts and very generous support of the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation. Other key partners include the Nature Conservancy’s Tennessee Chapter, the Cummins family, the State Lands Acquisition Fund and the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
“Gov. Haslam has emphasized a healthier Tennessee as one of his top Administration priorities, and I envision Cummins Falls and all of our great state parks playing an important role in this effort to create healthier citizens,” said Martineau. “I join the Governor in thanking all of the incredible partners who helped us create this new addition to the Tennessee State Parks’ family. Most notably, I want to acknowledge the hard work put forth by the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation in bringing this effort about and for their commitment to this beautiful land going forward.”
“Cummins Falls is one of the premier Tennessee natural treasures,” said Kathleen Williams, president and CEO of the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation. “We are so grateful to Gov. Haslam, our friends at the Department of Environment and Conservation and their state parks team, and the members of the legislature who love and want to conserve our beautiful homeland.”
Situated in the Cordell Hull watershed, Cummins Falls’ forest includes a variety of oaks, beech, buckeye, sycamore and hemlock trees. Woodland plants include October’s lady tresses, star chickweed, liverleaf and Allegheny spurge. The property’s forested streamside protects turkey, quail and eagles, as well as a variety of fox, mink and unique insects such as damselflies and dragonflies.
Through a cooperative agreement with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, fishing for bluegill and bass along the riverbank will be permitted with a Tennessee fishing license.
While Cummins Falls State Park is officially open to the public, enhancements to the park – including trails, additional road work, restroom facilities and a small park office – are still part of the overall park management plan. The park will be a day-use park and will be open from 8 a.m. until sunset year-round.
Ranger Ray Cutcher will serve as Cummins Falls’ new park manager, and Jeremy Vaden will serve as an additional ranger on staff. Both Cutcher and Vaden are familiar with the area, having served as part of the Burgess Falls State Park team. Until various facilities can be added to Cummins Falls, Burgess Falls State Park will continue to provide some staff support and office space for the park management team. The park office number for Burgess Falls is (931) 432-5312.
Cummins Falls’ rich history includes a time when Indians used the area to track the numerous buffalo that wallowed in the river’s shallow areas. In the 1790s, Sergeant Blackburn, a veteran of the Revolutionary War and for whom the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River was named, was awarded the land in lieu of a pension. The land was acquired by John Cummins in 1825, and he used the land to build the first of two mills. Because of his growing clientele, a larger second mill was built in 1845. Local residents would visit the mills and the falls for both commerce and recreation.
The mill was washed away during the great flood of 1928, but cars and paved highways had already begun to make the trek to Cummins Falls more accessible. The land was not rebuilt but stayed with the Cummins family for more than 180 years until the recent efforts by the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation to purchase the land through private and public donations for resale to the state of Tennessee for nearly $1,040,000.
Tennessee’s 54 state parks and 82 natural areas offer diverse natural, recreational and cultural experiences for individuals, families or business and professional groups. State park features range from pristine natural areas to 18-hole championship golf courses. For a free brochure about Tennessee State Parks, call toll free at 1-888-867-2757. For additional information, visit our Web site at www.tnstateparks.com.
To help commemorate Tennessee State Parks’ 75th Anniversary milestone, the department has launched an innovative new microsite on www.tnvacation.com, honoring the rich heritage of Tennessee State Parks and showcasing the outdoor adventures available at park sites today. Among many great features, the microsite highlights a wide range of richly-illustrated content that will help plan your next park visit, an interactive timeline that stretches all the way back to the beginning of Tennessee State Parks to the most current events, and a fun Junior Ranger game.