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510 Acres Protected on Bluff Mountain

TN - Marian E. Oates recently celebrated her love of the land by donating a conservation easement on her property.
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510 Acres Protected on Bluff Mountain

Marian E. Oates recently celebrated her love of the land by donating a conservation easement on her property. Now 510 acres of ridge tops and mountainsides will be protected in the counties of Sevier and Blount, Tennessee.

Foothill Land Conservancy's Executive Director, Bill Clabough, says that with these types of land protection projects, “You realize it’s not just the vast landscape that can capture the essence of East Tennessee’s diversity, it’s also the people that leave imprints just as poignant.”

So is the case of Marian E. Oates and her family – their patience, foresight, and love of the land over the years will now ensure that the acreage on Bluff Mountain will forever be protected from commercial development and mining practices. Clabough adds, “It’s the ultimate gift a family or individual can give - to allow for the land to stay as is, uninterrupted and in perpetuity – it’s just very special and benefits everybody.”

Marian's favorite treeFrom atop the east side of Bluff Mountain pictures of civilization emerge from below – the twists of roads cut into the hills and building rooftops that reflect the shining sun. To the west, a different story emerges – a window into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with cascading views of Cove Mountain, Clingmans Dome, and the majestic Mount LeConte. Oates often notes the rising and setting suns placement among these mountains ridgelines and can even tell you where they fall for the summer and winter solstices.

She can also point out the former location of her family’s old cabin and the long fallen hotel, once a favorite vacation spot for her grandparents back in the early 1900’s. Called the Dupont Springs ‘Cool Chilhowee Health Resort,’ it touted the water as having strong mineral properties that “contained iron, lithia, and magnesia.” It’s this very hotel that inspired her grandparents and their son Frank, to consider the mountain as a permanent holiday spot. Over the next few years Frank developed a land acquisition plan to buy up tracts, gradually building up the necessary road systems. In early 1950’s Marian’s father then purchased the very top of Bluff Mountain for $10,000 and with a bit of patience and much excitement he and his wife, Emma Ree Crooks Oates, built their dream retirement home in 1964.

Recently, Ms. Oates endowed the Marian E. Oates Teacher Enrichment Award. This annual award is presented to an outstanding middle-school teacher, which allows the award recipient to collaborate with UT Knoxville faculty researchers on an active environmental research project. She is also in the process of developing a book titled ‘A Beautiful View’ as well as working on a commemorative tile for display at the Sevierville Library.

The mission at Foothills Land Conservancy is to protect, preserve, and enhance the natural landscape along the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains and surrounding areas. Their goal is to protect 25,000 acres by their 25th birthday next year. In 2008 alone, FLC worked with land owners to preserve for future generations over 1900 acres including: farmland, woodlands, native wildlife, public parks, and watersheds. To date, FLC has helped over 58 land owners in protecting a combined 20,000 acres.

For more information, please contact Bill Clabough, Foothills Land Conservancy's Executive Director, at 865-681-8326 or bclabough@foothillsland.org.

Photo at top of eastern view atop Bluff Mountain

Photo in middle of Marian's favorite tree, located next to her home at the top of Bluff Mountain - the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is in the background

Photos courtesy of Elise Eustace, Foothills Land Conservancy

posted 7/27/09

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