September 20, 2013 - Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, along with Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau, announced today that Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge would become a new Tennessee state park. The Seven Islands State Birding Park would be the first state birding park in Tennessee and the 56th state park.
The governor made the announcement at the annual Legacy Luncheon for the Parks. "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 Legacy Parks 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."
Pete and Linda Claussen's generous and dedicated efforts in developing Seven Islands were the catalyst for this announcement. Around 15 years ago, the couple bought 200 acres of land and donated it to the county to be preserved as a wildlife refuge. "It is really pleasurable to see something like this reach its potential," said Linda Claussen.
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 183 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.
In addition, Governor Haslam also announced that the Legacy Parks Foundation would 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 Introductory Trail Project will offer a 1 mile beginner bike trail; 2.5 mile mix-use trail; two overlooks; a skills/play area; .5 mile mixed-use trail; a .5 mile hiking only trail to the south overlook and 3 creek-crossing structures.
The Introductory Trail Project will be constructed on the 100-acre property donated to the Legacy Parks Foundation by the Wood family in August 2013. The property - located on Taylor Road off Sevierville Pike in South Knoxville – will provide a key connection between the existing parks and trails with the Urban Wilderness' South Loop Trail System and South Doyle Middle School and its Outdoor Classroom.
The annual Legacy Luncheon for the Parks celebrates the work of Legacy Parks Foundation to preserve open space, expand parks and improve the overall quality of life and economic vitality of our community. Over the past five years the Foundation has raised over $3 million, added over 300 acres in parkland and protected nearly 1,000 acres of forests and farmlands in east Tennessee. Funds raised through the Legacy Luncheon for the Parks allows this work be done
Information on Legacy Parks Foundation is available at http://www.legacyparks.org