The state announced a $500,000 grant to acquire additional land for White County’s Virgin Falls State Natural Area.
The land adjoins the Dog Cove area southeast of Sparta. All told, the state will purchase some 1,400 acres at a total cost of $1.83 million.
The grant is part of money from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Local Parks and Recreation Fund.
White County officials passed a resolution this winter asking the state to move forward with a state park at the site. However, the state budget did not allow for the additional costs currently.
White County Chamber of Commerce President Marvin Bullock said he’s ecstatic about the grant.
“That grows the area–the original Virgin Falls was only 1,300 acres and it’s been listed about 15 years ago in Outside Magazine as one of the top 10 waterfall hikes in the United States, last year, it made an international Trail Runner Magazine as one of the six most-scenic trail runs in North America,” Bullock said. “The woods down in that area are considered one of the most bio-diverse hardwoods left on the planet earth and it’s somewhat of an anomaly they’ve been as preserved as they been and of course this will protect a whole lot of wilderness that is so valuable to the Cumberland Plateau and all of Tennessee for that matter–not to mention the recreational possibilities.”
Bullock said this is just one step that could lead Virgin Falls State Natural Area, to turning into a state park.
“We hope it becomes the Virgin Falls Wildness Park, and when I say that I mean the intent for that area is for it to remain wilderness,” Bullock said. “In other words, it won’t be a resort-type park–we’ve got a lot of resort parks in Tennessee–this one won’t have the golf courses, it will not have the lodging and that kind of thing in the park.”
Bullock said that park could grow from just 1,300 acres to several thousand. In acquiring the additional land, Bullock said there is a real opportunity for growth in the area.
“People tend to relocate where the recreate–it helps attract retirees which helps our economy, it also helps build our workforce” Bullock said. “Because people like to relocate where they recreate, they can come here and find jobs since so many of our manufacturers and even service industries are clamoring for help right now, there’d be way more reason for them to come here.”