Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation is a statewide non-profit organization that seeks to conserve and protect Tennessee’s rich heritage and natural resources. The Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation was established in 1997, merging the Tennessee State Parks Foundation and the Tennessee Greenways Program of the Conservation Fund. In its commitment to the conservation of Tennessee’s land and waters, three strategies guide this organization’s efforts: conserving Tennessee’s natural resources, creating greenway corridor connections, and fostering conservation education initiatives. Based in Nashville, the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation employs five part-time staff employees and is governed by a thirteen-member board of directors that comprises citizens, businesspersons, elected officials, and park professionals, as well as other committed individuals. Through cooperative partnerships, the organization also seeks to create opportunities that further its goal of an interconnected network of state parks, greenways, and wild areas that link public lands across the state. The foundation is primarily funded by individual donations and other tax-deductible gifts.
The organization’s work counteracts some of the burgeoning issues related to increased population growth, sprawling development, and human encroachment on Tennessee’s rich natural heritage and environmental wealth. These issues include fragmented landscapes, loss of agricultural lands and rural heritage, decreased biological diversity, forest loss, diminished air and water quality, and a decline in natural habitats for rare or endangered species. This organization has worked to protect and conserve those assets that overwhelmingly contribute to a healthy economy, a growing tourism industry, increased property values, and an enhanced quality of life for its citizenry. Specifically, the foundation seeks to salvage scenic vistas, acquire properties that buffer existing state parks, and link communities and nearby state parks via greenways in order to help facilitate greater protection and conservation of resources for future generations while encouraging a balanced environment. By promoting a seamless network of parks, greenways, and wildlife areas extending from the Mississippi River to the Great Smoky Mountains, and envisioning state parks and natural areas as destination points within these corridors, the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation fulfills its goal of preserving Tennessee’s scenic beauty and rich wildlife across the state.
The foundation also strives to provide a funding mechanism that advances greater initiatives and understanding for resource protection across the state. Such initiatives include land procurement assistance, planning and design ideas, land dedications and tours, conservation easements and land protection, greenway trail development, legal assistance, educational workshops and campaigns, and a visionary new project along the entire Mississippi River Corridor. Since 1998, the State Parks Connections Program has enabled the foundation to award small matching grants to non-profit organizations and community groups creating greenways or trails within or leading to state parks and natural areas. Additionally, Partners for Pathways is a partnership developed between State Parks and the Tennessee Ready Mixed Concrete Association, which enables the construction of pervious concrete surfaces within state parks and provides accessible overlooks, parking, trails, picnic shelters, and other small public access projects that are environmentally friendly. In 1999, the “Keep the Country in Tennessee” campaign conducted six informational workshops across the state led by national experts on conservation to educate attorneys, estate planners, accountants, and landowners on land protection options and tax benefits. The foundation was also instrumental in helping to create the Tennesseans for State Parks Coalition, which works to foster an increased awareness of state park closures and to encourage their reopening.
Additionally, the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation has provided funding assistance for various projects statewide, including: the protection of 420 acres at Fall Creek Falls State Park (1998); the City of Clarksville’s purchase of property adjacent to Dunbar Cave State Natural Area (2000); acquisition and protection of the Black Mountain area in Cumberland County (2001); and assistance in trail improvements and amenities to the Mississippi River Trail (2004).
In recognition of the Tennessee Park and Greenways Foundation’s efforts, the Tennessee Conservation League awarded this group the 2003 “Conservation Organization of the Year” Award. Additionally, the Sierra Club-Tennessee honored executive director Kathleen Williams with the Mack Prichard Award for her significant contribution in the preservation of Tennessee’s environment.