Smokies land owners donate 700 acres for preservation


Associated Press
King 5 News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. More than 700 acres bordering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will remain natural and undeveloped thanks to a Christmas gift from the land owners.

Lamar Alexander, Tennessee's new senator and former governor, and several of his neighbors are giving away millions of dollars in development rights to preserve the forested tract.

"We have been acquiring this land for 25 years in order to protect this scenic view of the Smokies and to create a buffer zone to protect the park," Alexander said. "We hope others will want to do the same."

Sen.-elect Lamar Alexander and friends are donating development rights on a 769-acre tract, shown in this 2000 file photo, bordering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Townsend, Tenn.
The gift, announced Sunday, is the largest private donation of its kind, both in size and value, in Tennessee, said Randy Brown, executive director of the Foothills Land Conservancy.

The conservation easement covers 769 acres between the Foothills Parkway and the southwestern edge of the park, some 30 miles south of Knoxville. It will provide a development buffer as much as two miles wide along two miles of the park's 70-mile border in Tennessee.

"It is beautiful ... quiet as a church," Brown said.

The Smokies range over a half million acres in Tennessee and North Carolina. It is the country's most visited national park with nearly 10 million visitors a year.

The property will continue to be owned by Alexander and his associates, but the right to subdivide it will be transferred to the Foothills Land Conservancy and The Conservation Fund.

Alexander grew up in Maryville and has a mountain home in Millers Cove. Other landowners in the deal include Sandy Beall, founder of the Ruby Tuesday restaurant chain and proprietor of the Smokies resort Blackberry Farm.

The Foothills Land Conservancy, a 1,500-member organization devoted to preserving the rural character of East Tennessee, has protected 13,350 acres of forest and farm land since its founding in 1985.


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