Tunnel Hill Now Protected by the Land Trust

The Land Trust for Tennessee has announced the protection of Tunnel Hill, which is 411 acres just west of Sewanee in Franklin County.

This forested property was the last remaining, unprotected, private tract separating Hawkins Cove State Natural Area and Bear Hollow Wildlife Management Area. With a bridge loan from Open Space Institute (OSI), The Land Trust purchased the property from long-time Sewanee resident Peter Keeble earlier this year. The property was then transferred to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) on Aug. 31 to be managed as part of the 15,000-acre Bear Hollow Wildlife Management Area.

The property is critical for connectivity and is home to numerous rare species of plants, including a large population of the Cumberland rosinweed (Silphium brachiatum), a state-endangered species found in only a few counties in Tennessee and Alabama.

The northern property boundary is a former railroad right-of-way that is in the process of being transformed into part of the Mountain Goat Trail. The Land Trust is pleased to partner with others on this Rails-to-Trails project creating a multi-use recreational trail connecting several communities in Grundy and Franklin counties.

The property also contains Cowan Tunnel, an active railroad tunnel that is still used by CSX today. The property adjoins Hawkins Cove State Natural Area, a 249-acre property managed as part of the South Cumberland Recreation Area and a 200-acre conservation easement held by the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation.

In addition to state and federal funding through TWRA, the project was supported by grants from OSI because of the tract’s importance in facilitating wildlife adaptation to climate change. OSI assembled the funding from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Lyndhurst Foundation, Benwood Foundation and Merck Family Fund.