Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, along with Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau, announced last week that Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge will become a new Tennessee state park.
The governor made the announcement at the annual Legacy Parks Foundation Luncheon in Knox County, and the Seven Islands State Birding Park will be the 56th state park in Tennessee.
“Our state parks offer residents and visitors unique ways to get outside and experience Tennessee, and Seven Islands is a great addition to our parks system,” Haslam said. “Seven Islands is a special place in Knox County and East Tennessee, sitting along the migratory path of many bird species, and I am pleased that it will become Tennessee’s first state birding park.”
Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge is a Knox County wildlife sanctuary that is currently managed by the Seven Islands Foundation and Knox County Parks and Recreation. The county will transfer the 360-acre property to the state over the coming months and Tennessee State Parks will begin managing the site in July.
“I would like to thank the Legacy Parks Foundation, Seven Islands Foundation and the Knox County Parks and Recreation for conveying this great property to the state,” Martineau said. “The distinct wildlife and many species of birds at this location will make Seven Islands one of our most unique state parks.”
The refuge is currently used as a wildlife sanctuary, an area for hiking and observation, an educational facility for schools and other groups, a demonstration area for land use and habitat management techniques and a small boat launch for canoes and kayaks. The property is adjacent to the French Broad River and aquatic and riparian habitats support an impressive diversity of wildlife species. Over 160 species of birds have been identified.
“This addition to Tennessee State Parks is the result of a great partnership between TDEC, Knox County, the Legacy Parks Foundation and the Tennessee Department of Tourism Development” Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill said. “This partnership allows us to develop watchable wildlife sites and trails, with Seven Islands being the flagship for a statewide birding tour.”
Tennessee State Parks will be working with the Legacy Parks Foundation to assess the needs of the park and implement a transition plan to take over in July 2014. Seven Islands will become Tennessee’s 56th state park. Both Seven Islands and Rocky Fork will open to the public as Tennessee State Parks in 2014.
“This park will bring in birding enthusiasts from around the region,” Tennessee Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Susan Whitaker said.” “Seven Islands State Birding Park is a great addition to our state parks system and the tourism industry.”
In addition, Haslam also announced that the Legacy Parks Foundation will receive a $200,000 Recreation Trails Program (RTP) grant for the construction of a 4.5-mile trail in Knoxville that will connect a middle school and outdoor classroom. The Knoxville Urban Wilderness Project will add the new multi-use trail, offering a one-mile beginner trail, three miles of intermediate trails and a half mile hiker-only trail. The trail head parking area will be adjacent to the Doyle Middle School property.
Legacy Parks Foundation is a non-profit organization which works to assure that our community enjoys exceptional recreational opportunities, natural beauty and open spaces, and that those assets exist for generations to come. Its mission is to leave East Tennessee better than it found it. Over the past five years, the foundation has raised more than $3 million for parks, trails and greenspace, added over 300 acres in Knox County parkland and helped protect over 1,000 acres of forest and farmland in East Tennessee.
Tennessee’s state parks 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. Celebrating its 75th Anniversary this past year, the Tennessee State Parks system was established through legislation in 1937. Today, there is a state park within an hour’s drive of just about anywhere in the state, with features such as pristine natural areas and a variety of lodging and dining choices.
For more information about Tennessee State Parks, please visit www.tnstateparks.com or connect via Facebook or Twitter. For a free brochure about Tennessee State Parks, call 1-888-867-2757.