The TTA and Tennessee Trails

E. W. Means

Donald Todd Jr. , A person, Donald Todd Sr. another person

(L to R) Donald Todd Jr, Mrs. David Hassler, Donald Todd Sr., and Robert Brown

[From the 1975 Tennessee Department of Conservation’s “Guide to the Tennessee Trails Program,”  written by Evan Means, this article gives important insight into the origins of the Cumberland Trail State Scenic Trail.  The Tennessee Trails Association created the Cumberland Trail Conference in 1998.]

Long before the White Man came to the great valley of the Tennessee, trails criss-crossed the area. Indian trade routes followed the same general pattern of highways now traversed by tourists going from the Ohio Valley to Florida. Game trails atop the ridges were also used by hunters. No doubt John Muir followed the ancient trails on a good part of his walk from North to South across Tennessee.

With the advent of the White Man, many of the trails became highways, first wagon and ox cart roads, and finally broad ribbons of concrete and asphalt. Mechanized travel by railroad, steamboat and automobile, changed the outlook of modern man and the footpaths which did not turn into highways fell into disuse. Many of the old trails can still be found on the ridges of the Cumberlands and the Smokies. There have always been a few hardy outdoor adventurers who like to “get away from it all” and stroll in the woods or climb a ridge. In 1921 Benton MacKaye proposed the establishment of a wilderness footpath from Maine to Georgia, the Appalachian Trail. The first section of the AT was opened in 1922 in Palisades Interstate Park in New York and New Jersey. Interest in the trail flourished for a while, then nearly died out in 1926. Following this, interested individuals formed the Appalachian Trail Conference, resulting in the completion of the Trail around 1937. The Smoky Mountains Hiking Club was organized in Knoxville shortly after the end of World War I. It was only natural for this group to become a member of the Appalachian Trail Conference and to help maintain a section of the Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There were many trails in the Smokies before the National Park was established and Paul Adams tells of these in his book, Mt. LeConte. After the Cherokee National Forest was established in Tennessee, the U. S. Forest Service built and maintained many trails. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC built trails in the Smokies, as well as in state and national forests.) Following the end of World War II, with the return to shorter working hours, hiking clubs flourished and interest grew in a national trails system. On October 2, 1968, the National Trails System Act became Public Law 90-543. The Appalachian Trail was one of two National Scenic Trails designated by the Congress as initial components of the system.

Donald Todd Sr.

Donald Todd Sr.

Shortly after the National Trails System Act became law in October 1968, I received a long-distance call at my office in Oak Ridge. It was Mack Prichard, then naturalist for the Division of State Parks, calling from Nashville. He said, “Bob Brown, treasurer of the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association, is with me here and we are discussing the possibility of getting a few people together to talk about establishing a state system of hiking trails. What do you think of the idea?” My reply was, ”I’m for it, and I have a trail project waiting for you.” As president of the Clinch and Powell River Valley Association, I had attempted to establish a trail from Cumberland Gap National Historical Park to Oak Ridge in the spring of 1965. We had named it the “Cumberland Trail”. We had a good response to initial publicity and a meeting was held at Cove Lake in April of that year to plan work on the project. Volunteers offered to help map the route, while others agreed to help get permission from landowners to route the trail across private property. A couple of landowners wrote letters offering rights of way. With that start, I turned the project over to a new recreation chairman and went about the other business incumbent to the head of an organization. That summer we had a student intern from the University of Tennessee study land ownership on the proposed route. In July I went out of office and my successors let the project die. Back to Mack Prichard and Bob Brown, the three of us agreed to call a meeting of interested persons at Cumberland Mountain State Park on Nov. 16, 1968, with a follow-up meeting near the Cumberland Trail, at Cove Lake State Park, set for Dec. 7. Those who attended the Nov. 16 meeting at Crossville included J. C. Haydon, Mr. and Mrs. Dean Reed, and the writer, from Oak Ridge; Arthur Harrison and Roy Hall, of Crossville; James E. Bell, Bob Rourk and John Rhinehart, all of Knoxville; Bob Brown, Mack Prichard and Carl Leathers, all from Nashville, and Ted Dungjen, of Calhoun, representing Bowaters Southern Paper Corp.

Problems were discussed and it was agreed that the Cumberland Trail should be the pilot project, to be extended on southward to the Georgia Line, following the highest elevations of the Cumberland range. It was also decided thay we should follow the standards set in the Appalachian Trail Manual. At the meeting at Cove Lake on Dec. 7, 1968, Mack Prichard reviewed a 2237-mile system of trails proposed in 1965 by the Tennessee Department of Conservation to the U.S. Bureau of Outdoor Recreation. The proposal, drawn up by C. M. Gorman, Jr., with a compilation of trails by Prichard, listed 7 existing, 23 planned, and 28 proposed trails. The late L. M. Doney, then president of the Tennessee Conservation League, moved that the group establish the Tennessee Trails Association, an umbrella organization to coordinate work on the state trails system. The new association ratified the proposal to use the Cumberland Trail as its pilot project, to prove the feasibility of a state system. Other trails would follow as more people joined the movement. It was decided not to take any action for the time being to attempt passage of legislation to set up a state trails system. Robert D. “Bob” Brown was elected president, with Carl Leathers as secretary. The writer was appointed to get work started on the Cumberland Mountain section, while Roy Hall, manager of the Crossville Chamber of Commerce, would carry the ball in Cumberland County. The meeting was also attended by Stanley A. Murray, of Kingsport, chairman of the Appalachian Trail Conference, who gave the fledgling association tips on how to establish and maintain trails. In the months that followed, a number of people joined the TTA. John McIntyre, young Oak Ridge scientist, Scout leader and spelunker, took over the work of getting permission to take the trail over private lands and through the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. His fellow-caver, David Irving, lent valuable assistance. Donald Todd, Wartburg school teacher and Scout leader, joined the group in January and took on the job of getting the trail from Walden’s Ridge to Cumberland County, crossing Morgan State Forest (now Frozen head State Park) and the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area, Bob Brown and Roy Hall led work parties on Brady Mountain and Black Mountain in Cumberland County.

By the end of 1969, it was obvious that the Tennessee Trails Association needed a more coherent organization, with improved communications. At the annual meeting on Dec. 6, 1969, a constitution and by-laws were adopted and the writer was appointed editor of a monthly newsletter, “Tennessee Trails”. Also at that meeting, TTA agreed to sponsor a trails seminar in cooperation with the Department of Conservation, to be held at Montgomery Bell State Park in April 1970.

Donald Todd was elected president to succeed Bob Brown, who accepted the office of vice-president. Mrs. David Hassler, of Byrdstown, was elected recording secretary and Mrs. John McIntyre became correspondingsecretary-treasurer. Roy Hall, Frank Bruce, of Oak Ridge, and the writer were elected to the new Board of Directors. TTA acquired a post office address, Box 733, Oak Ridge. In January of 1970, Rep. Robert J. Bible of Kingsport prepared a “Tennessee Trails System Act” for introduction in the General Assembly. After consultation with Stan Murray and Bob Brown, Rep. Bible decided to withhold his bill until the 1971 session of the 87th General Assembly. The trails seminar at Montgomery Bell Park on April II, 1970 was attended by representatives of the Tennessee Department of Conservation, National Park Service, U. S. Forest Service, Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, and a number of private organizations concerned with trail projects. The seminar participants discussed the problems associated with planning and developing a trails system. The individual groups recounted their activities and hopes for various hiking trails. Donald Todd told of the work on the Cumberland Trail. Stan Murray reviewed the experiences of the Appalachian Trail Conference. Leroy Fox, of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club, outlined hopes for a hike-bike trail on the right-of-way of the old Smoky Mountain Railroad in Knox and Sevier Counties. Edward F. Williams of Memphis told of the work of the Nathan Bedford Forrest Trail Committee. Tom Owen of Chattanooga, representing the League of American Wheelmen, talked of the need for more bicycle trails. Mack Prichard discussed which trails should be initially included in a state-wide system. Walter Criley, chief of the Division of Planning and Development of the Dept. of Conservation, led a discussion of a working task force to prepare a report and make recommendations to the 87th General Assembly. In the meantime, Tennesseans were doing more than just talk about trails and a state system. Trail-clearing sessions were held on various segments of the Cumberland Trail. John McIntyre and David Irving continued with exploration of routes on Cumberland Mountain and Waldens Ridge in Claiborne, Campbell and Anderson Counties. Donald Todd and sons, Donald, Jr. and Steve, led parties which re-opened old trails in Morgan State Forest. Work parties cleared the trail from Tristates Peak to the southern boundary of Cumberland Gap National Park, on the Catoosa Wildlife Management area, and Waldens Ridge.

Bowaters Southern Paper Corp. opened its first pocket wilderness, Angel Falls, on the Cumberland Plateau south of DeRossett, and and a large group turned out on a rainy Saturday for the rugged dedication hike. Even more people turned out on the “Rain Date” a week or two later, also on a rainy day. Bowaters now has four pocket wildernesses in Tennessee: Angel Falls; Laurel-Snow, near Dayton; Stinging Fork, near Spring City, and Honey Creek, near Elgin in Scott County. Three were dedicated in the rain. TTA, Smoky Mountains Hiking Club, Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning, Boy Scout Troops, and the Sierra Club have all participated in these dedication hikes. A total of 190 persons turned out for the Honey Creek dedication on Oct. 23, 1971. Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning constructed the North Ridge Trail, along the northern rim of the city of Oak Ridge. The Oak Ridge City Council is presently exploring the possibility of having the route designated a National Recreation Trail under the National Trails System Act. The Tennessee Trails System Act was re-worked and introduced in the 87th General Assembly, with fifteen original sponsors in House. It passed and was signed into law by Governor Winfield Dunn in April 1971. It is administered by the Department of Conservation and is similar to the National Trails System Act. On June 2, 1971, Sec. of the Interior Rogers C. B. Morton announced designation of 27 trails in 19 states as National Recreation Trails. Two other trails, both in California, had been placed in the system in 1970, making a total of 29 recreation trails. Three of these are in the Southeast, with Bowaters’ Laurel-Snow Trail the only one in Tennessee and the only National Trail entirely on private land. Donald Todd and Walter Criley were participating in a National Trails Symposium in Washington at the time and Todd came up with the idea that TTA should sponsor a special dedication ceremony for the Laurel-Snow Trail. Bowaters officials accepted the idea with enthusiasm.

CT Meeting

Stan Murray addressing the 1971 TTA annual meeting

The weather jinx was finally broken and the Laurel-Snow dedication was held on a sunny Saturday, Nov. 13, 1971. Speakers at the ribbon-cutting ceremony included William C. Grater, general mgr. and now president of Bowaters Southern Paper Corp.; D. M. Dyer, president of Hiwassee Land Co., Bowaters’ timber management subsidiary; Louis Windsor, land acquisition chief for the Southeastern Region, BOR; and Wm. Russell, administrative assistant to Gov. Winfield Dunn. About 100 people hiked after the ribbon-cutting. In addition to the work on the Cumberland Trail and participation in Bowaters dedications, TTA accompanied Max Young of the Conservation Dept. on an exploratory hike to locate the route of the Trail of the Lonesome Pine, designated in the State System Act, in May. In August, TTA previewed the Sergeant York Trail, under construction by the Division of State Parks in Pickett County.

Volunteer groups, including Boy and Girl Scout Troops, completed the section of the Cumberland Trail from Lake City to Poplar Creek Gap near Oliver Springs in 1971. McIntyre Sign Co., of Sherman, Texas, donated signs for marking the Trail. The section in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park was cleaned out again. Trails in Frozen head State Park received clean use. A total of about 40 miles have been cleared on the Cumberland Trail. The 1971 annual meeting of ITA was held at Cumberland Mountain State Park Dec. II. At that time, life membership was presented to Paul Adams, of Crab Orchard, who built the first camp on Mt. LeConte in the Smokies in 1925, before Great Smoky Mountains National Park was created. Paul has lent advice and assistance to TTA from the beginning. February 19, 1972 was set as the date for a trails seminar, to be held at Cumberland Mountain State Park, to be sponsored jointly by TTA and the Dept. of Conservation. At that time, representatives of Federal, State and private groups will report the progress of their respective programs and discuss problems. The meeting will be open to the public. The Smoky Mountains Hiking Club’s hike of the month for February was scheduled for Sunday, the sixth, on Waldens Ridge near Lake City, with John McIntyre as trip leader. TCWP will work on Cumberland Mountain with TTA this year. The Nashville members of the Sierra Club are working on other trails. Members of the Tennessee Trails Association are divided into three classes: individual, student, and supporting. Supporting members may be individuals or organizations contributing ten dollars or more a year or special services to the Association. John McIntyre was designated a supporting member at the 1971 annual meeting in honor of his work on the Cumberland Trail. Individual dues are three dollars a year, students, one dollar. The constitution was amended in 1970 to provide for local chapters but none has been formed to date. Information and membership applications may be obtained by writing to TTA at P.O. Box 733, Oak Ridge, Tenn. 37830. The current officers of the Tennessee Trails Association are Donald Todd, Sr., President; Robert D. Brown, Nashville, Vice-president; Mrs. David (Robbie) Hassler, Byrdstown, Recording Secretary; Donald Todd, Jr., Wartburg, Corresponding Secretary-Treasurer, and Roy Hall, Crossville; Richard Wooten, Nashville, and E. W. Means, Oak Ridge, are Directors.