David Smith | GCA News
Almost four decades ago, public pressure influenced the state to create its first natural area, first with 653 acres and later that figure more than doubled. Currently, plans are under way to acquire more acreage that will include a new trailhead, parking and three miles of new trails.
Recent fund-raising goals show that the $1 million needed to purchase the final 34 acres of the Harris Ridge Trail Project is shy $65,000. The Friends of Radnor Lake has indicated that the six-year, $4 million, 89-acre project that began in 2010 is at its final stretch of fund raising, with a matching grant deadline at years-end.
Discussions are under way between State of Tennessee officials and park leaders about making new trails beginning as early as next year in which a three-mile trail will be added between Franklin Pike and Otter Creek Road, and a new entrance with a 100-space parking lot off Franklin Road that will help alleviate overcrowding at the Otter Creek Road entrance to the state natural area. With approximately 1.5 million visitors expected for 2017, this is expected to provide a possible break from crowds.
According to Tennessee State Parks, the fiscal year 2015-16 to 2016-17 saw an overall state parks increase in visits of 9 percent, while the increase for Radnor Lake was 33 percent and it could be as much as a 50 percent increase since many Radnor visitors walk-in and are not counted by the drive-over counting device.
The partnerships are important in acquiring the remaining undeveloped pieces of land in Davidson.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, park officials, the Friends of Radnor Lake and the landowner have worked together for almost 15 years to protect the last piece of Radnor Lake’s view shed and watershed to preserve the land for future generations of visitors and species.
All further expansions of the state natural area are expected to influence the city’s land-use situation, which relies on the public-private partnership as a shortcut around resource jammed projects like 8th Avenue and Fort Negley, for example. A majority of the issues are zoning. “This is about thinking in the long term,” said Steve Ward, the Park Manager who has been educating visitors and enforcing park rules for 15 years. “You break the rules, we will straighten things out. Our focus is on wildlife and the ecosystem.”
But casual hikers, many of whom are drawn to a convenient trail to walk, have been delighted at the policies. Andrea Bevins, who works for a jewelry designer, was walking with a friend last Wednesday on the north side of the lake along the popular Lake Trail shortly before the sun began to set. The gray October sunlight was slanting through the park’s yellow and russet foliage.
“I try to wait until later in the day to be here around sunset,” she said. “It’s quiet and you can connect with nature. You can really enjoy the park.”
Friends of Radnor Lake Operations Manager Gretchen Pritchett said on Wednesday that, “when property is transferred to the State of Tennessee to be preserved and protected, then it’s protected forever under the State Natural Area Preservation Act of 1971.”
The Harris family agreed to sell the property for less than the market value, which was key because the Oak Hill area has some of the highest property values in the state, Ward said. The Harris family sold another portion of land to the park in 2011.
Ray Harris and his wife, Peggy Flynn Harris, own a part of the 52 acres, as do other members of their extended family. Ray Harris said he has worked with Ward on the project for almost 15 years and preserving the land for future generations to enjoy was a key motivator in selling the land to the park instead of to a developer.