INVITING NATURE lovers of all ages and types is the quaint and friendly Meadow Trail at the South Cumberland State Park. Conveniently located at the park’s welcome and information center, just off Highway 41 in Monteagle, the trail provides an opportunity to sample the flora and fauna of the park in an easy, one-mile walk.
ABOUT THE TRAIL
The trail, which today is a collection of vegetation and wide natural walking paths, was once a nine-hole golf course.
According to Mary Priestley, a member of the Friends of South Cumberland State Park (FSC), once the course was no longer in use, the Meadow Trail was created. In the last four years, the FSC has helped to add points of interest for visitors to enjoy, such as the storybook trail, a garden, beehives, a campfire area, and a nature play area.
First on the trail is the storybook feature which is made up of sturdy boards displaying a story that will unfold as visitors walk along the trail. Farther down the winding path is a community garden that is tended by a member of the FSC. The garden is free and is open to the public.
Visitors will walk on past honeybees that are tended to regularly, along with a seated spot for campfires that is also used for star-gazing activities held by the park.
“It’s such a nice area where anyone can walk. This is a great hike if you have young children you’d like to introduce to the natural world,” she said.
Halfway through the near one-mile trail, children are welcome to let their imaginations take the lead as they play on stumps and interestingly placed trees of the nature play area.
Additionally, Priestly advised that young families with little ones pack a picnic or snack, as this is an excellent spot to enjoy a break in the trail.
Recently, the members held their annual Meeting on the Trail at the nature play area that has recently received a most welcome addition. A sturdy climbing structure was constructed by local landscaper Dan Pate with Dan Pate Landscaping in Sewanee. The addition, along with some other natural structures, were added to the trail’s one play area, thanks to a $10,000 South Cumberland Community Fund grant.
According to the grant’s website, the fund’s grants process empowers the community to define and create initiatives that utilize the area’s local knowledge; foster community collaboration; and build on the strength of the area’s people, communities, and natural setting.
“We’ve been adding things over the years to make it of interest to children. We’ve really enhanced the nature play area, using the South Cumberland Community Fund. My hope is, the parents will take a rest on one of the benches and just sit back and let the kids play,” Priestley said.
She also added that there are fallen trees that have been repurposed and are ready to be created into dinosaurs, robots, or whatever a nature-loving child can imagine.
“A couple of dead trees had died on the other side of the trail. Dan brought them down and set them up in a way that their children could play on them. We’ve been told they look like dinosaurs ready to play,” she said.
Priestley said that something that is unique about the area is how everyone reacts to it.
“We’ve had fourth graders down here from the elementary schools in Grundy County,” she said. “The smiles on their faces when they see the area, is great. So are the looks on their teacher’s faces. They are just as excited. It’s so interesting how everyone can relate to it.”
The future holds additional changes for the trail, as Priestley said there are plans to add more for visitors to enjoy. In the meantime, she invites the public to come out and enjoy a truly unique piece of nature.
ABOUT FRIENDS OF SOUTH CUMBERLAND
According to their website, the FSC, Inc. is a nonprofit group of volunteer citizens dedicated to supporting the South Cumberland State Park. Members work year-round maintaining and upgrading old trails and creating new ones. They also help with renovations and additions to the park that include parking areas, restrooms, camping and picnic facilities, and more. They also serve as guides and share much-needed information through guided hikes, seminars, historical reenactments, and school programs for the park’s visitors and the community. GN