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Cummins Falls - A Conservation Success Story for Tennessee

On May 15th the sky opened and released buckets of rain and hail on a consortium of conservationists and developers who were about to bid for the ownership of one of the area’s most loved attractions - Cummins Falls. After a tense auction, Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation had emerged with the winning bid, ensuring that the waterfall and its 186.3 surrounding acres will continue to be accessible to future generations.



The bidding started with the auction of the small lots, but bidders had not come to think small; they came to purchase the entire 186 acre tract. As the skies cleared and the auction progressed, the future ownership of the waterfall was between two bidders: the group of conservation buyers and a land developer from Kentucky.  As Land Acquisition Coordinator Diane Naff described the situation, “It was so intense that I had to get up and leave because I was worried that it wouldn't work out. There has been so much effort put into this initiative – so many years.” According to Naff, they were about to stop bidding at one point and might have lost the auction to the developer, but one of the conservationists who knew the land developer urged the conservation buyers a little bit over their budgets to make the winning bid.

“While we can celebrate this victory, there is still much work to be done” says Kathleen Williams, Executive Director of Tennessee Park and Greenways Foundation, who first visited Cummins Falls in 2005. She immediately fell in love with the waterfall and since her visit had made this acquisition a top priority.

Winning the auction is indeed a victory for the foundation and for all those who enjoy visiting Cummins Falls, but there is still much to do in preparation for making the falls a State Natural Area. The Parks and Greenways foundation is facilitating the formation of a concept committee comprised of local stakeholders to design a usage plan for the 186 acres, while Mark Thurman and Frank Fiss of TWRA are creating an inventory of species found there.  All of this work will be included in the feasibility study for creating a Cummins Falls State Natural Area.

By June 16, 2011, Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation must raise well over a million dollars in order to close on the purchase and protect this Tennessee natural treasure forever. Show your support for by giving generously and telling others in your community, and please don’t forget your local officials, state senators and legislators. Go to or call 615-386-3171 to show your support.

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