Signal Mountain’s Edwards Point is an essential vantage point and Instagram hotspot that’s part of nearly every flyover video and marketing campaign touting our region. Thousands of people hike from Rainbow Lake to enjoy it every year.
While people have hiked the area for years, the site has never been officially protected – until now. The Tennessee River Gorge Trust (TRGT) has purchased 32 acres making up iconic Edwards Point. This purchase solidifies public trail access, including access to the Cumberland Trail.
For 40 years, the Tennessee River Gorge Trust has worked to preserve the Tennessee River Gorge for future generations. The Gorge is unique because it is the only large river canyon bordering a mid-size city.
A $300,000 contribution from The Tucker Foundation, along with $60,000 in commitments from other community members, will help fund the Edwards Point purchase and move the needle toward reaching TRGT’s $1.15 million capital campaign goal to support further land investment.
“Good stewardship from past boards and staff got us where we are today,” says TRGT Executive Director Rick Huffines. “Now, our capital campaign will help us stay on solid footing to continue making the right land investments to preserve our Gorge. If you value preserving iconic spots like Edwards Point, please consider making a donation to our campaign.”
TRGT got its start in 1981 after a dinner party at Adele Hampton’s house on Elder Mountain. Chattanooga locals in attendance discussed their concerns about development in the surrounding mountains. This led them to create the Tennessee River Gorge Trust to protect the beautiful landscapes of Chattanooga. With the help of cooperative landowners, TVA, the State of Tennessee and engaged citizens, TRGT has protected 18,000 acres of the 27,000-acre Tennessee River Gorge through conservation easements, MOUs and fee simple ownership.
The 32-acre Edwards Point lot was privately owned by the Stocker and Arnold families until its recent acquisition by TRGT. Family members wanted to ensure the land would remain undeveloped and available for future generations to enjoy. Tim Arnold and sister Wendy Arnold said their uncle, a World War II veteran, originally bought the property and found it a place of solace after the War.
“The Edwards Point property has been in our family for several years,” Tim Arnold says. “My uncle Jay Norman Sylar acquired it with two friends right after World War II. My sister Wendy and I inherited it through my grandparents and then through my mother. As the land transitions to the stewardship of the River Gorge Trust, we feel certain that this small part of our natural world will be preserved.”
Additionally, Tennessee River Gorge Trust recently purchased an additional 40 acres of property midway up Signal Mountain. These purchases create a continuous stretch of protected land and an uninterrupted view of the Gorge, since the properties border other TRGT property, the Town of Signal Mountain property and the Prentice Cooper State Forest.
“While land investment is a crucial element of our mission and the focus for our current capital campaign, it’s important to know that TRGT thinks holistically about preserving our area. We participate in research partnerships and work to offset carbon by preserving Gorge forests,” Huffines says.
TRGT has been a local leader in the carbon off-set arena by enrolling its forests in compliance and voluntary off-set markets for over six years. TRGT also conducts ongoing research on wildlife, monitors water quality and has completed a climate change vulnerability assessment. Some of TRGT’s research projects include a long-term study tracking neotropical songbird migration and tracking Belted Kingfishers’ annual movements with GPS technology.
“We also want everyone to get out and explore the Gorge,” Huffines says. “That’s why we create and maintain public trails, campsites, caving access and other ways to enjoy nature.”
TRGT creates and maintains a series of public trails and free campsites, as well as multiple rock-climbing locations and caving access.
Click here to support Edwards Point and TRGT’s work. Money raised will be earmarked for purchasing and protecting lands in our region. A successful capital campaign will ensure that TRGT is well-positioned to invest in the next priceless land conservation opportunity.