Coffee Shop, Feed Store Coming to Monteagle

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the March 25 meeting, the Monteagle Council approved business permits for Wander Brew coffee shop and Black Creek Feed and Supply. In a split vote, the council voted down a proposal for resealing the city hall and library parking lot. The council approved credit cards for department heads.

Wander Brew owner Harley Cross previously operated a mobile coffee trailer that docked at Oakes and Olivers Mercantile. Searching for a permanent location, Cross opened a shop in Cowan in February. Wander Brew, located in the “red, blue, and yellow” building on Main Street, will open June 1.

Black Creek Feed and Supply, on Highway 41 next to Summerfield Market, will sell animal feed and medications, farm supplies, pet food and supplies, some apparel, and crafts by woodworkers and other local artisans. Owners Jennifer and Jason Meeks plan to open May 1. They hope to offer a bin pickup option for after-hours customers who order in advance.

Mayor Greg Maloof presented a proposal to sealcoat and stripe the city hall and library parking lot with money from the road paving budget. The lowest bid, $20,940, came from Nance Sealcoating and Striping. Maloof said a Nance “test patch” sealed an area that was “breaking up.” Alderwoman Dorraine Parmley said she preferred using the money for road repair. Alderwoman Jessica Favaloro concurred. Maloof said the roads would be “chopped up” when upcoming I&I sewer rehab was done. “It [the road repair] doesn’t need to be done now,” Parmley said. Alderman Nate Wilson said the areas where I&I work would occur were identifiable. “I’m a big fan of the crack sealing, that’s $2,500 of the bid. My experience with seal coating is it’s cosmetic, but it doesn’t do a lot to preserve the longevity of what’s there.” Alderman Dan Sargent commented city hall and the library were “in the central part of the city, and we should be mindful of the appearance and upkeep.” Favaloro, Parmley, and Wilson voted against the parking lot resealing.

The council voted unanimously for the police, fire, and utility department heads to have credit cards with a $5,000 maximum limit. The city currently has two credit cards, Maloof said. The administration will continue have its own card. Maloof cited frequent online purchases as the reason department heads needed credit cards. Fire Chief Travis Lawyer said when a truck broke down recently, and he could not get the city’s card, he was forced to pay for the repair cost out of pocket and seek reimbursement.

In a discussion about how best to communicate Monteagle events, Maloof said he intended for the Mayor’s Memo page on the website to serve this purpose, but he could only post events he was made aware of. People used Monteagle Community News, Facebook, and other sites to post events. A resident commented part of the responsibility fell to residents to seek out information, “It’s a two-way street.” Another resident suggested Monteagle host a “Google groups” email account similar to Sewanee Classifieds for posting event information. Wilson suggested identifying a single location to post information or a Google Calendar as possible solutions. Wilson and Maloof will explore alternatives.

Police Chief William Raline cautioned residents about phone scams, with the caller claiming to be the IRS and demanding money. The IRS never contacted individuals by phone, Raline said. He also warned about a Publishing Clearing House scam, with the caller requiring money before the Publishers Clearing House prize could be awarded.

Wilson announced the American Institute of Architects group enlisted to help Monteagle draft a growth plan would visit April 25-27. April 25, 5-7:30 p.m., AIA representatives will host information tables at city hall to talk with residents and collect information. The meet-and-greet event will feature music, free food, and a bounce house for kids. April 27, 5 p.m., at city hall, the AIA group will present their recommendations to the town.

Monteagle’s Easter egg hunt will be March 30, at 11 a.m., at Hannah Picket Park, with the fire department providing free hot dogs for children.

New St. Mark’s Community Garden

Something wonderful is happening at St. Mark’s Community Center, 481 Alabama Avenue — the construction of a Community Garden. This collaborative project between St. Mark’s Community Association (SMCA), Growing Roots, Mountain T.O.P., the Roberson Project, and the University Farm is largely funded by the South Cumberland Community Fund.

Last Spring, Evelyn Patton, the President of SMCA, said she would love to see a community garden for Sewanee’s historic African American neighborhood, especially since incorporating fresh produce in home cooked meals is not easy for some of the St. Mark’s Community members. Fresh produce can be expensive, has a short shelf life, and requires planning and preparation. What if making fresh produce available was a community effort? Evelyn’s idea started a series of developments that has led to a nearly completed raised-bed garden that will be ready to plant at the beginning of this growing season.

At the same time we were discussing Evelyn’s idea, we became aware of a collaborative grant available from the South Cumberland Community Fund, so we brought together partner organizations with overlapping goals.

Woody Register and the staff and students with The Roberson Project have been involved in the St. Mark’s Community for several years, and provided much of the initial structure that made this project possible. The Roberson Project is continuing its support of SMCA with funding, staff, student, and volunteer time.

Growing Roots, led by Stephanie Colchado Kelley, has provided expertise, resources, connections, and sustainability plans for managing the garden. Growing Roots is in the process of hiring a gardening team that will manage the garden and support workshops around food preparation and garden related health.

Annabel Hines, Service Area Manager with Mountain T.O.P., has led the construction aspect and provided much of the skilled volunteer labor, tools, and equipment needed. Mountain T.O.P. has also been able to start building the relationships necessary to identify how they can help neighborhood residents with home repairs and improvements.

The assistance of Carolyn Hoagland, University Farm manager, has been invaluable. She has provided expertise and resources at every step of the process, from improving the garden design to providing heavy equipment, as well as delightful young workers connected to Farm programs.

Over the many weeks of meetings, a surprising dynamic has developed. Bringing our various organizations together has created an energy centered on the needs and desires of the St. Mark’s Community members. Community members are able to feed workers, make supply runs, and tell stories about the history of the neighborhood. University students are finding a place where they enjoy “hanging out” as are other volunteers from the neighborhood and the wider Sewanee community. Individuals from the surrounding area with ties to the St. Mark’s Community are thrilled to see this garden program developing and want to be involved. There is now something going on at the Center several days each week making it a center for community relationships to take root and grow.

The finished garden will enable plans for a sustainable year-round garden program that includes choosing what to plant, working with a garden team to grow and harvest produce, and holding workshops on food processing and other health-related topics — all of which are open to anyone who wants to be involved. The garden beds are raised with wide, level walkways to make them easily accessible to people of all abilities.

Watching this project develop has been almost magical — there is a new pride about the improvements in and around the Center, a welcoming and inclusive culture, and a valued social space with new and reconnected friendships. Looking back, the progress since the St. Mark’s Community Association was reconstituted a year ago is a bit stunning. And plans for programming related to the garden and enhancing the daily lives of community members and anyone who wants to be included are already being realized.

Keep an eye out for planned landscaping, outdoor seating areas, and planters of pollinators and herbs. See people playing Pickleball on the old basketball court and look for development of other recreational spaces. Check out the Association website at <> and consider renting St. Mark’s Community Center for your next event. Let us know if you would like more information by contacting <> or pop in to see for yourself.

Arcadia at Sewanee

Arcadia at Sewanee is making steady progress toward bringing a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) to Sewanee. Recent developments include Janet Cooper joining as program director; LiveWell on the Mountain – the aging-in-place program introduced by Arcadia and managed by Blakeford Senior Life – increasing its membership to 15; and engaging the services of ARCH Consultants last fall to evaluate the feasibility of developing a CCRC on an approximately 12.5-acre site between Kennerly Road and Alabama Avenue. Of the potential sites considered by Arcadia and the University, this location appears to be the best suited based on access to the campus via existing roadways and the new Heritage Trail, proximity to the Sewanee Village (including the possibility of a walking bridge), and ease of access from Highway 41A. Given this progress, where does Arcadia stand today?

After evaluating a variety of density maps for the preferred site, Arcadia’s board of directors is currently considering a CCRC of up to 100 units based on existing residential leasehold lines. The CCRC would include cottages, row houses, and a central apartment building that would include independent living, assisted living, and memory care units.

In addition, based on further input from ARCH, Blakeford, and HJ Sims (investment bankers), the Board has interviewed three nationally recognized companies to perform a market study that would delineate the CCRC’s primary and secondary markets, analyze the demand for this type of facility based on demographics of the area, make recommendations for the pricing of units, and determine its financing feasibility. Part of this process will include confirmation that the Alabama site is the optimal location for the CCRC. It is expected that this study will help reduce potential lender concerns regarding Sewanee’s rural location and the CCRC’s reliance on a higher than typical percentage of residents coming from a secondary market. Arcadia expects the CCRC to be considered a destination location based on Sewanee’s natural beauty and the appeal of a university-based environment.

For more information, please contact Janet Cooper at <>.

SCA Asks Sewanee Council for Funding Assistance

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

“The Mountain Goat Trail Welcome and Heritage Center will serve both as a trailhead and a resource offering historical and current information for visitors and community members alike,” said Sewanee Civic Association President Kiki Beavers appealing to the Sewanee Community Council at the Mach 25 meeting for financial help with operating costs to enable the Center to realize its full potential as “a source of community pride and site for social interaction.” The council also heard an update on the proposed Arcadia senior living facility and a report on the Traffic Safety Committee’s research on speed cushions as a traffic calming tool.

Now in its 115th year, the SCA’s most recent big project was Elliott Park. The SCA sponsors Sewanee Classifieds and three programs enhancing quality of life on the Plateau, the Non-Food Supply Drive, the School Supply Drive, and the Sewanee Community Chest. Beavers estimated completing the Welcome and Heritage Center project would cost an additional $128,000. Located at the former Hair Depot site, the Center currently features bike racks and benches, with information kiosks on the way (total cost of Phase 1, $17,000, with the South Cumberland Community Fund contributing $8,500). Phase 2 improvements to the building will include an ADA compliant restroom and deck, HVAC, and utility upgrades. When the doors open, the Center will serve as the permanent home of the Historical Downtown Sewanee exhibit, as well as other exhibits telling the story of the Plateau, its people and places. The Sewanee Class of ’73 had donated $63,000 to Phase 2, with additional Class of ’73 donations and grants a possibility.

What needs to happen for the project to move forward? “We need to raise the money,” Beavers said, “the University needs to ‘ok’ the renovation, it’s their building, and the SCA needs to show we can pay for ongoing monthly expenses.” The basics — janitorial services, WiFi, and utilities — will cost approximately $20,000 annually. The SCA’s only revenue source, $10 annual dues from the 700 members, is not meeting current expenses for insurance, software for the Sewanee Classifieds, and other related costs, Beavers stressed. Dues will need to increase to at least $15 and would need to increase to $20-$24 to pay operating expenses for the Center. Beavers said the SCA was reaching out to community partners for help paying the operating costs, suggesting the council’s Community Project Funding program as a source.

Superintendent of Leases Sallie Green said the Community Project Funding initiative received $10,000 annually from lease fees to distribute as grants. Potential grantees needed to apply each year. Project Funding committee member June Weber concurred, “Other people have [ongoing needs] as well. We have to spread the wealth.” Council member Lynn Stubblefield proposed a portion of lease fees be allocated to pay the Center’s operating expenses, as was the case with fire and police protection. “It’s something we would have to discuss,” Green said. Vice Chancellor Rob Pearigen asked for a project analysis on the Welcome Center “showing what the costs are, what we’ve pledged, and where the gap is.”

Updating the council on the proposed Arcadia senior living facility, council member John Solomon said a recent site evaluation pointed to an Alabama Avenue/Kennerly Avenue location as “optimal” based on access to the Village and Highway 41A. Plans call for 100 units, cottages, row houses, and an apartment building with 60 units offering Assisted Living and Memory Care. Solomon noted “financers institutions were skeptical” when market analyses showed high reliance on alumni. Council member Laura Willis commented the high number of alums who purchased homes on the domain suggested alums would find a senior living facility in Sewanee attractive.

Traffic Safety Committee chair Michael Payne related what he had learned about speed cushions from his research and consultation with a Chattanooga traffic engineer. Nationwide speed cushions have become a popular traffic calming tool, slowing traffic to 20-25 mph and costing approximately $750 each. Speed cushions were not allowed on state highways, Payne said, and not suitable for curves and steep inclines. Acting Provost Scott Wilson said an investigation was underway to determine what was “permissible” and which streets were “eligible” candidates for speed cushions. Payne suggested a possible “test” on several streets to determine speed cushions’ effectiveness.

Green reminded council members about the Community Cleanup scheduled for April 27. Meet at the Welcome Center at 9 a.m.

The council meeting dates for the 2024-2025 academic year are Sept. 23, Oct. 28, Jan. 27, March 24, and May 19. The following dates have been set aside as reserve dates if business needed addressed: Aug. 26, Nov. 25, Feb. 17 or 24, April 28, and June 23.

Tenth Anniversary of Mountain Goat Trail Race

by Beth Riner, Messenger Staff Writer

Tracy City’s Lanny Bell, 76, has run in every Mountain Goat Trail Race since the first one 10 years ago and has a T-shirt for each one.

Bell, who’s lived in Grundy County for most of his life, graduated with a mechanical engineering degree in 1970 from Tennessee Tech.

“I was at a Tennessee Tech basketball game when they read off the draft lottery and called out the birthdays,” he said. “They drew days of the year out of a hat, and that’s the only thing I ever won. I didn’t even interview for a job — the next month I was at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.”

Getting drafted prompted him to immediately get in shape.

“I started running in the backyard of the house I was living in at Cookeville because I knew I was going to basic training,” he laughed. It would be another two decades before he signed up to run in his first official race — the Cotton Row Run in Huntsville, Alabama.

From his home off Pigeon Springs Road, he has watched the Mountain Goat Trail go in from the beginning.

“They started between Sewanee and Monteagle,” Bell said, “and then they came to Tracy City and started paving back toward Monteagle. There was some property in between that they had trouble getting in their name, but, now, as I understand it, it’s all been taken care of — it’s all been purchased, and it’s just a matter of filling in the gaps there. That will get us from Tracy to Sewanee — all paved — hopefully in the next year or so.”

Bell’s run in all nine of the Mountain Goat Trail races since the beginning a decade ago. (The race was cancelled in 2020 — the first year of the pandemic.)

“Done ‘em all,” he said, “and two of the half-marathons. I’m gonna attempt to do that again this time. My goal is to finish without stopping. I’m always glad just to survive. For the last month, I’ve been out here — either riding the bicycle one day or jogging the next.”

His attachment to the Mountain Goat Trail stems not only from living very close to where the trail crosses Pigeon Springs Road, but also because of family memories.

“My dad used to work on the train here, so that was a tie to it,” he said.

He also enjoys biking on the trail from Tracy City to Monteagle with his grandchildren.

“It’s a great thing,” he said. “A lot of locals use it, and then you meet people from different places who come through there.”

Mountain Goat Trail Executive Director Patrick Dean believes the trail offers many benefits to the mountain community.

“First of all, there are the health and recreational benefits for the people who live here,” Dean said. “The topography of the mountain adds to the fact that there are not many safe, separated places to ride a bike or push a stroller safely.”

Dean said three infrared trail counters — one in Sewanee, one in Tracy City, and one in Monteagle — show about 45,000 visits a year.

“Locals use them all the time,” Dean said. “If you spend any time on the trail, you know that it’s everybody — it’s all ages, all types of families. It’s a wonderful thing to see.

“There’s a proven economic development aspect to it too, especially the longer the trail gets, the more people will come from elsewhere to ride on the trail. When people come from Nashville or Atlanta or someplace, they’ll eat out, they’ll spend the night, they’ll bring economic impact to the area.”

Dean joined the board in late 2011, although the nonprofit itself began back in 2006.

“We started talking about everything that we did — the website, social media presence, grant writing, and all that — so we quickly threw me off the board and hired me as a staff member,” Dean said, who’s been with the trail ever since. “I became the executive director in 2015, and I’m still the only paid staffer. We do have a very good board that does a lot of hard work, so I’m by no means a lone agent.”

Current Mountain Goat Trail Alliance board officers are President Nate Wilson; Vice President and Co-Treasurer Dede Clements; Vice President Jessica Favaloro; and Secretary Deb McGrath. Also serving on the board are Doug Cameron, John Clark, Will Reynolds, Emily Partin, Louis Rice III, Chris Roberts, and Barry Rollins.

Dean clarified that while it’s the 10th anniversary of the race’s start in 2014, this year is not technically the 10th race because of Covid.

“The first race was quite an adventure,” he said. “The second section of the trail that was built between Sewanee and Monteagle was not finished, and so that first year we actually had people running on the highway between Highway 156 — the yellow light where St. Andrew’s-Sewanee is — and Mountain Outfitters. I can’t believe we did that now.”

Mountain Outfitters has been the major sponsor of the race since the beginning.

“When we first started the race, David Burnett, who’s one of the founders of Mountain Outfitters, had pushed for this race,” Dean said. “He really wanted to promote the trail and support it however he could. Ever since then, Mountain Outfitters has been the main sponsor of the race, and they’ve been wonderful supporters.

“They provide the shirts — usually they’re top quality, Patagonia or North Face. They also have the famous drawing after the race where if you register, you get two tickets for the drawing. We also sell tickets. After the race, they give away all sorts of incredible gear — running shoes, trail shoes, Yeti coolers, backpacks — it’s quite the community event. People look forward to it. We are very grateful to Mountain Outfitters for their huge support of this race and the trail.”

Dean said last year’s race had close to 200 entrants.

“Once the guns go off, my job is pretty much over,” Dean said, “but it’s still so much fun to watch it all unfold. I’m going back and forth between the various start places and all that to see these people streaming down the trail — you got your serious racers, people who are just out there cruising and having fun, people walking their dogs and chatting and everything — this one day, it’s just a lot of fun.

“I think we are all very gratified that the larger community thinks of the Mountain Goat Trail as a really good asset — a very worthwhile thing to happen on the mountain,” Dean said. “It’s very gratifying to be part of a project that so many people seem to like and appreciate and enjoy using.”

This year’s race is set for Saturday, March 30. The half-marathon begins at 8 a.m. at Mountain Outfitters; the two-mile walk begins at 10:15 a.m. at La Bella Pearl’s Restaurant, and the five-mile run begins at 9:30 a.m. in downtown Sewanee. All three races finish at Mountain Outfitters.

To register in advance, go to

Packet pickup is noon to 5 p.m. on Friday, March 29, at Tower Bank in Monteagle or 6:45-7:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 30, at Mountain Outfitters.

Runners and walkers may also register at all three start places on the day of the race, Dean added.

SUD Concerned about Potentially Costly State Legislation

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

On the eve of the March 19 meeting, Sewanee Utility District commissioners learned about an amendment to proposed state legislation that would require the utility to bear the infrastructure cost for service to new residential developments. The commissioners discussed the potential for increased cost to customers if the legislation passed and what SUD has learned from past experience. The board also discussed a possible path forward for dripline dispersal of effluent and heard an update on SUD’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant.

“This [legislation] may lead to a utility having to pay for all costs for development and for a small utility like us with 1,600 customers in an economically depressed area, that’s not a viable solution for economic success,” said SUD manager Ben Beavers. “We have to break even,” said Commissioner Doug Cameron. “The rates for our customers would go up.” Cameron, Beavers, and Board President Charlie Smith have contacted state legislators. “I asked that they use whatever influence they have to kill this thing now,” Smith said.

The Tennessee Association of Utility Districts brought the pending legislation to the commissioners’ attention. Paraphrasing, Beavers said the amended bill stipulated “a utility could not compel any permittee to improve water and sewer infrastructure without just compensation.” Translated into practice that would mean “any water and sewer put in by a developer would require just compensation back to the developer,” Smith said. “That means the customers would pay for it,” Cameron said.

Cameron brought historical perspective to the possible outcome of the legislation becoming law. “We [SUD] built the stuff for Sewanee-Monteagle Properties [Jackson Point/Jump Off], and there was a financial crisis in the district. It took forever to get it paid off. Our customers had to swallow all that. That’s when we changed the policy.”

To cover the cost of extending water service to the Jump Off area, Beavers explained, SUD decided to sell a certain number of taps before they started the project and to charge a monthly customer fee for each tap whether the tap was installed or not. “Theoretically that was supposed to pay for the debt service for the line,” Beavers said, “but in reality, it didn’t.”

SUD based their new policy on the American Waterworks policy premise “Development pays for development,” Cameron said. Beavers pointed out without that policy SUD customers would have had to pay for the Cooley’s Rift water infrastructure, cost $480,000. If the amended legislation passes, the cost burden of development will again fall to SUD customers.

Revisiting the discussion on switching from spray-field to dripline application of effluent at the Wastewater Treatment Plant, Beavers said SUD currently had adequate capacity, but two proposed projects (University apartments and a St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School development) could push capacity to 80 percent. Cameron noted at 80 percent the state required utilities to pursue expanding capacity. Beavers said a possible way forward would be to install dripline at the spray field out of service due to a lightning strike, as well as at marginal areas too close to SUD’s boundary for spray-field application, with the long term goal of phasing into dripline entirely if there is an advantage. Beavers is seeking engineering advice. The per acre loading rate of effluent dispersal for spray and drip application is the same. Whether the amount SUD could disperse would increase with dripline remains to be determined.

Updating the commissioners on SUD’s ARPA grant, Beavers said all SUD’s contracts had been approved by the state. The mandated Asset Management Plan requires listing, locating, and valuing all assets. “I was surprised at the level of detail they want,” Beavers commented, giving the example of each manhole and each section of pipe between manholes counting as a separate asset. SUD’s engineer estimated gathering data would take seven months. “We’ll learn a lot about the system,” Beavers said, “and we’ll know where everything is.” The deadline for ARPA grant applications is March 31. Beavers speculated more money might be available if not all qualifying utilities applied.

FC Schools: Graduation Requirements, Raises, Therapy Dogs

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the March 11 meeting the Franklin County School Board approved changes to graduation requirements, discussed teacher raises recommended by PECCA, and considered a policy allowing therapy dogs. The board also learned about proposed amendments to the Education Freedom Scholarship Act and welcomed Roger Alsup, former Franklin County High School principal, as Human Resources Supervisor.

The change to the graduation policy allows students to substitute marching band, cheerleading, or an athletic program for the required one-half (1/2) credit in physical education. “It doesn’t make sense a student in a semester of football should be required to take a half semester of PE, as well,” Alsup said, speaking from the perspective of a former high-school principal. “In addition, it allows students to take another class [in the PE time slot] that could be content based,” said Director of Schools Cary Holman. Alsup did not anticipate the change significantly impacting the number of PE teachers needed. Holman pointed out teachers frequently had dual certification.

The Franklin County PECCA (Professional Educators Collaborative Conferencing Act) team consists of representatives from the Franklin County Education Association and the board of education management. The recommended pay scale calls for a 5 percent salary increase for all certified employees and a years-of-service wage increase for teachers who have served 24 years or more. By last year’s pay scale, years-of-service increases stopped at 23 years. “We plan to use the 5 percent increase to build the budget,” said Board Vice-Chair Lance Williams. With an April deadline for budget approval on the horizon, the board will hold a working session April 4, 6 p.m., to parse the details.

South Middle School Principal Tara Brewer appealed to the board to adopt a Tennessee School Board Association policy allowing therapy dogs. Brewer first experienced the “joy” and “calming” effect therapy dogs could bring to a classroom when teaching special ed at Cowan Elementary. Recently an emotional support dog visited South Middle School. “I was amazed at the students who came out of their shell,” Brewer said. ‘When is Bo coming back?’ the children wanted to know afterwards. Therapy dogs are trained to be around people, welcome petting, and tolerate noise, chaos, and even tail pulling. Research has shown therapy dogs increase wellbeing and decrease depression, pain, and anxiety. Physiological measurement shows therapy dogs positively impact brain chemistry levels of cortisol and dopamine. From a classroom perspective, therapy dogs reduce test anxiety and help conflicted students de-escalate, especially key for students navigating the challenges of adolescence. Brewer told the story of a defensive angry student who after spending five minutes with a therapy dog was ready to go back to class.

Other Franklin County school principals have expressed interest in the program, Brewer said. Several Tennessee school districts have therapy dog policies. According to board member Sarah Marhevsky, proposed state legislation called for a pilot program placing therapy dogs in schools.

Updating the board on the Education Freedom Scholarship Act which would award vouchers for private school and home school education, Marhevsky said the Tennessee House and Senate had introduced 39 and 17 page amendments, respectively. The House version does not require testing accountability for students awarded vouchers, but on a positive note, would mean the state paid a higher portion of teacher insurance premiums and provided for alternatives to fourth-grade retention for students with inadequate test scores. The Senate version would allow voucher money to pay for attending a public school in a different county.

Speaking against the Education Freedom Scholarship Act, board member Sara Liechty said when North Carolina adopted a similar plan, 90 percent of the students awarded vouchers were already attending private schools, meaning they had the financial resources to do so. Liechty also noted private schools were not required to teach Tennessee or U.S. history.

Holman announced the state recently honored Cowan Elementary, North Lake Elementary, and Sewanee Elementary with the designation Reward Schools, the top distinction a school can earn for academic growth and achievement. Holman praised principals Cynthia Young (Cowan), Sherry Sells (North Lake), and Allison Dietz (Sewanee) “for their leadership.”

Monteagle’s Recreation Future: Communication, Kids, Getting to ‘Go’

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

What do people in Monteagle do for recreation? Of the 100 respondents to a recent survey, 81 percent listed walking and jogging. But equally interesting, the next nine activities ranked in order of preference scored relatively similarly in popularity. Participation in exercise class, biking, pickle ball, baseball, art classes, volleyball, archery, dance, and skateboarding ranged from 18-8 percent. The highest number of respondents (32 percent) were 50 or over, but the 13-15 year age group came in a close second (28.2 percent). Recreation Committee Chair Ty Burnette pointed out the older age bracket had the advantage of spanning far more years than the younger age groups. What do people want that they do not have? Soccer and bocce ball. Why is the Monteagle Recreation Committee collecting this data, what next, and how will Monteagle get to “go”? A March 7 townhall meeting plumbed the survey results to answer those questions.

“The things that get said on the front end are what you start on and where you go,” Burnette said. He explained the Recreation Committee formed when a group of residents suggested Monteagle apply for a grant to build a pickle ball court. To apply for grants, Monteagle needed a “recreation plan.” Facilitator Eddie Krenson stressed the survey provided “quantitative data.” The missing piece essential for a Recreation Plan and for grant writing was “qualitative data, what people are thinking and feeling.”

A Sewanee grad who played baseball at the University, went on to earn a Doctorate in Education, and to serve as a teacher and coach, Krenson led attendees in an exercise to take the survey results to the next level. Attendees responded to three questions writing their answers on notecards: What are the greatest strengths for recreation in Monteagle?; What are Monteagle’s greatest limitations and weaknesses in the area of recreation?; and What suggestions would you have to improve Monteagle’s recreational opportunities? Two topics repeatedly reared their heads in the attendees’ responses: communication and kids.

Attendees raved about the areas’ parks and hiking trails, but insisted, “People moving into the area don’t know what we have.” Likewise, despite advertising via Facebook and newspapers, following an event residents often objected, “I didn’t know about it.” Suggestions for ramping up the communication network included electronic bulletin boards, notices in water bills, a mural or map at city hall featuring area attractions, a tourist information center, an information table at the flea market, realtors distributing “welcome packets,” and a pamphlet detailing attractions. “A pamphlet with a map wouldn’t’ be that expensive,” a resident said, “and the other side could list business sponsors.”

On the subject of youth, many expressed nostalgia for a bygone era. “Technology has taken over,” one resident said. “Parents need to take their kids to the park rather than take them somewhere to be babysat. The ballpark used to be packed on Sundays.” Another resident recalled kids organizing neighborhood baseball and football games. Another recalled more emphasis on team sports in school — “Baseball was what we did in school so it was what we did out of school.” The overarching question: How do we recapture that enthusiasm?

Last year Monteagle lacked enough youth participation to field a baseball team. This year, Monteagle has partnered with Tracy City for baseball. Burnette suggested Monteagle could “take the lead on soccer,” although Monteagle lacked the space for a full-size soccer field. A parent suggested a possible partnership with St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School. Another partnership opportunity could follow from encouraging Monteagle Elementary School to focus more on organized sports.

Is there a soccer team in Monteagle’s future? Will Monteagle have a pickle ball court or a bocce ball court. Burnette expressed surprise at the interest in bocce ball. “A bocce ball court would be relatively easy to do and wouldn’t cost a lot.”

Krenson will collate the responses to the questions, rank them hierarchically, and draft a narrative for use in a recreation plan and grant writing, a story about “what people are thinking and feeling.” Interested in getting involved? Watch the Messenger for information on the next Recreation Committee meeting. To contact Burnette leave a message at City Hall or email <>.

SCRLT Bluebell Island Ramble, March 23

The South Cumberland Regional Land Trust (SCRLT) will be hosting the annual Bluebell Island Ramble starting at 10 a.m., on Saturday, March 23.

Meet on the Elk River side of the driveway to Tyson Foods (13811 David Crockett Highway/US Hwy. 64 just south of I-24 exit 127) and we’ll walk approximately 1/4 mile along the river and explore the spring wildflowers and new growth on Bluebell Island. All ages are welcome.

Please note that the crossing to the island usually involves a temporary bridge arranged on a log with rope handholds, but please don’t let concerns about your or others’ ability to cross the bridge deter you from coming. We’ll do everything we can to assist and there is a lot to enjoy even of you cant get across to the island.

Founded in 1993, SCRLT’s mission is to conserve and protect ecologically unique land in the South Cumberland region. Bluebell Island was acquired in 1996 and was SCRLT’s first land conservation initiative off the Plateau protecting the delicate wildflower habitat on the island.

Updates and other information can be found at SCRLT’s Facebook and Instagram pages, at <> or you can contact us any time via email at <>.

WMTN-LP Radio Named Best in Nation

Seven St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School students and faculty sponsor J.R. Ankney traveled to New York City to attend the Intercollegiate Broadcasting Radio Conference on March 1–2. In addition to attending radio broadcasting workshops with industry professionals, the St. Andrew’s-Sewanee radio station WMTN, 93.1 & 103.1, also was nominated for 15 “best in the nation” awards.

In the annual award ceremony competing against vastly larger schools across the nation, WMTN emerged with a Best In the Nation Award in the “Best Foreign Language show” category. They beat Carmel High School with 5,400 students and New Albany High School with over 2,000 students.

The other nominations included Best Radio Drama, Best Documentary, Best Public Affairs Program, Best Morning Show, Best Spot News Interview, Best Show Promotional Poster, Best Website, Best Podcast, Best Station or Event Promo, Best Show Promo, Best Public Service Announcement, Best use of Sound Effects, Best Liner/Sweeper and Best Station ID.

Faculty Sponsor J.R. Ankney, who will be turning over the faculty sponsor job to faculty member Stephen Brehm next year, said, “I’m beyond thrilled to have been part of the meteoric rise of WMTN, and I am so proud of every student who has contributed to our successes over the past two years. I cannot wait to see where WMTN can go under Brehm’s capable leadership, and I am excited for the next chapter for the station.”

Headmaster Karl Sjolund had this to say about the successes of the radio team: “It’s always great when the students’ hard work pays off in such visible ways. SAS is a small school that does big things, and I couldn’t be more proud of the WMTN crew for everything they’ve accomplished this year.”

For more information about WMTN, the VOICE of the mountain visit <>, or tune us in at 93.1, & 103.1 on the FM dial.

Community Conversations for Health Equity Planned

Community Conversations for Health Equity Planned

South Cumberland Community Fund invites the public to a series of five community conversations that will result in a health equity plan for communities along the Mountain Goat Trail Corridor. A meal and childcare will be provided. The meetings will run from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. as follows:

March 18, Gruetli Community Center

March 25, Coalmont Community Center

April 15, Palmer Community Center

April 16, Dutch Maid Bakery

April 25, Monteagle City Hall

These community conversations are part of a larger project to develop a health equity plan for the Plateau. The project is supported by a grant from the TN Department of Health, and it is being implemented by the Community Development Committee of South Cumberland Community Fund.

“A crucial part of this project is getting community input and community buy-in” said Tom Sanders, executive director of South Cumberland Community Fund. “We want to make it accessible to everyone, and that is why we are providing a meal and childcare.”

The conversations will center on what people in each community would like to see in their built environment – assets such as parks, housing, access to the trail, transportation, and potential businesses. A big part of the discussion will be about what assets the communities already have and how those can be connected to the trail.

To sign up, use the QR code in the advertisement in the paper get in touch with the Community Fund at <>. You can also call (931) 954-9116 and leave a message.

The public is invited to all the community conversations, but the conversation will focus on the particular community in which the event is taking place.

“We know that when the trail is complete that it will be a big boon for visitors that will boost the local economy,” said Tom Sanders, executive director of the Fund. “We wanted to make sure that it brings just as big a benefit to the folks who live here in terms of opportunity for healthy living.”

After the initial planning meetings take place this spring, planners at the Civic Design Center in Nashville will develop a Health Equity Plan, which will present how Grundy citizens believe the best development can take place to take their health into account. That plan will then inform the development of a “Design Your Neighborhood” curriculum in local schools.

The “Design Your Neighborhood” phase of the project will be developed by Dr. Katy Morgan, Sewanee professor, and teachers and administrators in the schools. Through Design Your Neighborhood, a three-week civic project for 6th through 8th grade students, Grundy County’s youngest citizens will learn about health equity in the built environment, design connectivity plans for their communities, and engage in creative placemaking that reflects their communities’ identity. In April of 2025, students will host a Community Design Exhibition to share their art, design ideas, and priorities for community connectivity. At the exhibition, youth will engage community stakeholders, local elected officials, and other leaders in an effort to elevate youth voice in long-term community planning. The grant will then conclude with a revised Health Equity Plan that includes youth priorities for healthy development.

Anyone wishing to be part of this project should contact the Fund at <>.

MGT, Welcome Center: Finish Line in Sight!

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

“The big news is the Mountain Goat Trail Alliance received $9.2 million from the state of Tennessee last year to complete the trail,” Patrick Dean, MGTA Executive Director, told members and guests at the March 3 Sewanee Civic Association meeting. Dean projected a completion date of 2028. Equally exciting, SCA President Kiki Beavers announced bike racks and benches were in place at the MGT Welcome and Heritage Center and the information kiosks would be on site by the end of March. When complete, the Center located on the former Hair Depot lot will feature historic displays and have an ADA compliant restroom, the only public restroom in Sewanee. The SCA hopes for a full opening in 2025. Both projects face hurdles, but the finish line is in sight.

The SCA sponsored Sewanee Community Chest has contributed over $10,000 to the trail, Dean said. This year’s donation will go toward maintenance of the original two-mile section, now More than 20 years old. When complete, the trail will span 38-40 miles from Cowan to Palmer. A connector from the South Cumberland Visitor Center to the trail is under construction. The next three sections to be built will be along Dubose Street in Monteagle, a connector to the Fiery Gizzard Trail in Tracy City, and the downtown Sewanee section from Sewanee Market to Sherwood Road. The MGTA has two more properties still to acquire between Sewanee and Cowan. The Tennessee Department of Transportation will incorporate the trail in the new bridge crossing 1-24, expected to be completed in the next 24-36 months. The bridge will have 13-foot-wide multimodal path. “Safe, flat recreational resources for people with wheelchairs or baby strollers are really limited,” Dean said, pointing out the entire trail will be multimodal accessible. Participants can register for the March 30 10th annual MGT race at the MGTA website or Tower Bank.

“We’re really excited to be part of the Visitor and Heritage Center project along with the SCA, University, and Sewanee Business Alliance,” Dean said, praising the SCA for spearheading the project. Beavers estimated the total cost, including refurbishing the interior, ADA restroom, and an exterior water-bottle filling station, at $128,000. The University class of ’73 has earmarked the Center as their 50th anniversary fundraiser and hopes to contribute $100,000. For the interior work to commence, the MOU with the University stipulates the SCA must demonstrate having the funds both to complete the project and for operation and maintenance expenses once the Center opens.

The anticipated $20,000 annual operation cost would include staffing the Center during set hours and daily cleaning of the restrooms, as well as general maintenance. Beavers said the SCA will reach out to three community partners to share in the expense, leaving the SCA to cover $5,000 annually in operating costs. Herein lies the challenge. Treasurer, Hus Ahmad said, due to inflation even without the Center expenses, the SCA 2025 budget shows nearly a $1,000 dollar shortfall, with the $10 annual dues the only revenue source. Dues have not increased in over 10 years. “If dues had kept up with inflation, they would already be $20,” Ahmad insisted. He recommended dues increase to $20-$25 to cover the shortfall. An increase to $12 would cover the 10 percent increase in expenses due to inflation, but not the additional $5,000 for the Center upkeep. Dean will appeal to the MGTA to help share the burden of the cost. A member commented a $24 annual dues increase would be only $2 per month. Another member pointed out SCA membership included a subscription to the listserv Sewanee Classifieds as a “bonus.” Another suggested the SCA encourage leaseholders to join the SCA, since they would benefit from the Center as well as the other projects the SCA hosts.

This year marks the SCA’s 115th anniversary. Beavers reported the Community Chest was just $7,000 from the $120,000 goal, the largest goal ever. Sewanee Elementary School, the largest recipient of Community Chest funds, earned an A+ scorecard in the recent state evaluation. Other fund recipients include senior-citizen programs, Housing Sewanee and animal resources.

Looking to the future, the SCA will partner with the Community Action Committee to host a Nonfood Supply Drive April 8-12. A School Supply Drive is scheduled for August.

At the May 4 meeting the SCA will elect board members and present the 41st annual Community Service Awards. Send nominations to P.O. Box 99, Sewanee, TN 37375 or <>. Deadline is March 15.

This Miracle Is for You: MOM & POP

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

Are miracles real? Doubters, say “hello” to Miracle on the Mountain Play Outside Park (MOM & POP) coming soon to the Highway 56-Highway 108 junction in Coalmont. The park will feature a splash pad and play areas reflecting the regions of Grundy County, for example a train for Coalmont and a barn and tractor for farming-centric Pelham. What is so miraculous about that? Plenty. “Everyone can play. No one is left out,” insisted Grundy County Mayor Michael Brady. Every facility and every piece of equipment will welcome children with disabilities to play alongside those without. The miracle has been over 10 years in the making.

The Miracle on the Mountain Park story began when Audrey and Keith Nunley contacted Jessica and Heath Winton. Both couples had sons with cerebral palsy. Audrey had a dream she wanted to turn into a reality: a park where children with disabilities to play alongside those without. The couples reached out to other parents with disabled children and formed MOM & POP. “We fed off Audrey’s dream,” Heath said. MOM & POP hosted bake sales and car washes to raise money, visited all-inclusive parks, brainstormed, and came up with the idea of a theme-park with multiple play areas representing the regions of the county. Grundy County High School donated land, the county commission made a contribution, MOM & POP met with a designer. But Heath conceded, the “hurdle of grants, paperwork and fees,” proved overwhelming. Then Audrey died of cancer.

Mayor Brady was aware of the project. He was also aware from his time serving as mayor of the challenges. “It would take a lot of hard work, dedication, and public support, because once you commit to something like this, there may be taxpayer money involved.” Then one day driving by North Elementary School, Brady saw a disabled child watching from the sidelines while other children ran and played. “It pricked my heart and mind,” Brady said. “So we started.” When Blue Cross Blue Shield denied the grant the county applied for, Brady went to visit Governor Bill Lee, a visit that earned the county a one-million dollar Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Grant. A $2.4 million dollar Local Parks and Recreation Fund grant followed, and MOM & POP contributed the money they raised to the county’s effort.

The county is pursuing other grant funding streams as well. Brady estimates the total cost at $4-5 million, leaving the project about $1 million short. Those who want to help can make contributions at any Citizens Tri-County Bank, earmarking their donation for MOM & POP. “I need money,” Brady acknowledged. The grant funds available will be released in April. “We’re going to pretend like we have all the money. We’re going to move forward.”

MOM & POP adopted the name Miracle on the Mountain Play Outside Park from Miracle Field park in Murfreesboro. The park features a baseball field with a padded surface designed to accommodate Miracle League teams composed of adults and children with disabilities. Play equipment on a flat surface or with a ramp welcomes children in wheelchairs. Heath recalls afternoons at a local park climbing a slide carrying his son and being exhausted after 10 or 15 minutes. “Not all kids want to go to school and learn math,” Heath said. “But all kids want to play.”

Early on, Brady considered omitting the splash pad and restrooms to cut costs, then put both back into the plan. He stressed the entire park would be “ADA functional.” “ADA functional is different from ADA compliant,” Brady explained. “An ADA compliant restroom would have one ADA equipped stall. In an ADA functional restroom, all stalls are ADA equipped.”

The entire park will welcome children with disabilities. The splash pad at MOM & POP will be ground level, rather than elevated, and feature water wheelchairs. The county purchased 25 acres for the park and design will take into account possible expansion, a ballfield, perhaps, an indoor basketball court, a rec center. “The next time we go back to the state for grants, the ballfield will be easy-peasy,” Brady said. “Folks will know we’re credible and grant worthy.”

Brady hopes to break ground by mid to late summer. The theme-based park will include an information kiosk celebrating the legacy and history of Grundy County. “I look for the park to be covered up with people,” Brady said. “If there’s something you want, there’s got to be a way.”

Sewanee Community-Wide Yard Sale, April 13

The Sewanee Community Center is sponsoring the community-wide yard sale from 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday, April 13. Registration is required by April 4, and the fee is $15.

You can participate by either having a sale at your home (feel free to combine your efforts with a friend) or join up with others at the Community Center. Space is limited in the Community Center. All participants will be listed on the official map that will be distributed that day. Advertising will be in local papers in the surrounding areas, and an official yard sign will be available.

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