Updated: Land-use debate in New Market highlights painful choices facing farmers and the public
Nonprofit’s plan to purchase equestrian property faced opposition but raised important future farmland issues
UPDATE: The Jefferson County Regional Planning Commission rejected the proposal for a KARM facility citing zoning restrictions. Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries may still bring the proposal to the Jefferson County Board of Zoning Appeals.
NEW MARKET — Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries plans to purchase River Glen, a storied equestrian facility in Jefferson County, to eventually help disadvantaged clients overcome substance-abuse issues and societal disparities.
The proposal has detractors, but proponents cast it as a way to also ensure the continued operation of an established working horse farm and long-term site of equestrian events, especially dressage. The horses could even provide therapy.
The New Market debate also raises questions about aging U.S. farmers and ultimate disposition of their agricultural lands.
President and Chief Executive Officer of KARM Danita McCartney said her group plans to purchase 185 acres. In addition to its show-worthy horse facilities, the property borders the Holston River and retains a significant amount of forest along the river and sharp ridge lines.
The property’s owner, Bill Graves, spoke highly of the potential new owners and said he was selling the land largely because he wanted to retire from running the business.
The Jefferson County Planning Commission planned to discuss the nonprofit’s plan for the site at a meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 23 at the Courthouse at 202 W. Main St. in Dandridge.
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David Etnier, a legendary chronicler and advocate for lesser-known regional fish, dies at 84
Etnier left behind a legacy of research and ambitious students
KNOXVILLE — Dr. David Etnier, a professor at the University of Tennessee internationally known for his research on freshwater fishes and caddis flies, died May 17 at the age of 84.
Etnier, known as “Ets” to his students, joined the UT faculty in 1965 and retired in 2001. Three aquatic insect species he helped discover are named after him, and those are just three of the more than 410 insect species he helped discover.
Dairy cows pumped for new UT milking method
Computer-based milking methods offer the best cream of the crop
WALLAND — The University of Tennessee is using a new automated system to milk cows in the hope it’s easier on the animals than previous mechanized techniques.
It’s the newest feature of the UT AgResearch and Education Center’s Little River Animal and Environmental Unit at 3229 Ellejoy Road in Blount County.
As part of the unveiling of the equipment on May 2, visitors watched a cow on video walk through a ribbon to reach the new machines.
The milking machines, developed by Netherlands-based Lely Corporation, allow for cattle to walk up to the machines voluntarily to get special food in what a UT news release called a more “stress-free environment.”
In the existential battle between Smokies swine and salamanders, the hogs have the upper hand
Researchers quantify the effects of feral hogs on Smokies salamander populations
GATLINBURG — A recent study investigating the relationship between Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s beloved salamanders and its hated hogs concluded that the rooting of feral pigs decreases the abundance and diversity of Smokies salamanders.
Alexander Funk of Eastern Kentucky University said the effects of feral hogs on salamanders from the family plethodontidae were mixed and varied depending on the season.
Generally, across seasons and especially in the summer, the hogs’ foraging seemed to hurt salamander abundance and diversity. Funk is a student under Eastern Kentucky University’s Director for the Division of Natural Areas Stephen Richter but had help from Benjamin Fitzpatrick of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. The study involved Funk going out late at night on Balsam Mountain in the spring, summer and fall of 2022.
The Mingus music mill: Tracing a mountain family’s history from slavery to stardom
Smokies African American studies trace a great musician with roots in Oconaluftee
GATLINBURG — Black history, let alone jazz history, isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when most people think about the Smokies.
But famed jazz musician Charles Mingus Jr.’s family has roots in what is now Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
At the recent virtual Discover Life in America Colloquium, previously reported on by Hellbender Press, Appalachian Highlands Science Education Coordinator Antoine Fletcher was the sole presenter on social sciences. He went into the Mingus family history and Black history in the Southern Appalachian region.
Fletcher said the Mingus story derives from the African American Experiences in the Smokies Project, which he described as “a project that is focusing on the untold stories of African Americans in the park and the Southern Appalachian region.”
“There’s a huge story to tell,” he said of his research. “There are stories of the human vestiges that we have from 900-plus years.”
Bassmaster anglers ahead of Knoxville game: The trash can get your bass
Ahead of marquee Knoxville lake showdown, pro anglers fish trash for fish on
KNOXVILLE — The 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk will be in Knoxville March 24 through 26 with competition on the Tennessee River lakes of Fort Loudoun and Tellico.
Ahead of the competition a crowd of volunteers, including several competitive anglers, were out working in the humblest way. They picked up garbage from the banks of Fort Loudoun in the Louisville area.
The pros were joined by people associated with Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful and Yamaha Rightwaters, all of whom banded together to gather Fort Loudoun Lake’s garbage on Tuesday, March 21. They walked along an exposed shoreline, grabbing garbage both large and small. Among the larger recovered items were a traffic safety barrel, a broken chair and the ruins of an old boat.
This cleanup wasn’t just for the sake of preparing for the the tournament. It also represented a desire to conserve the river’s wildlife for its own sake.
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Oak Ridge churches harness ‘God's gift of sunshine’
How two East Tennessee churches went solar, and can help your congregation do it, too
OAK RIDGE — On two church roofs on the same road in this small town that helped harvest the atom, panels catch the sun’s rays for electric power.
Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church at 1500 Oak Ridge Turnpike and Faith Lutheran Church at 1300 Oak Ridge Turnpike added solar energy at different times through different companies using different federal incentives. ORUUC added its panels in 2015; Faith Lutheran added them in March 2022. Members of both churches involved in the solar projects spoke to both the challenges involved and the benefits. They said their churches benefited both financially and spoke of the benefits to the planet.
“I really hope it works well for us as well as for the environment,” said George Smith, associate pastor at Faith Lutheran. “I’m fond of thinking that we’re turning God’s gift of sunshine into a gift of cash for ministry.”
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2016 Smokies wildfires: Six years later, the good and the bad come into focus as natural recovery continues
How the 2016 Great Smoky Mountains National Park wildfire affected salamanders and other life, six years on
GATLINBURG — The disastrous Chimney Tops 2 wildfire of 2016 occurred some six years ago, but researchers are still looking at its ecological effects.
The Discover Life in America 2023 Colloquium brought together researchers this month from different fields and universities to present findings on research in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Researchers presented on many topics, ranging from trout to the history of the Mingus family in the park.
One such presentation, the first of the day, from William Peterman, associate professor in wildlife ecology and management at Ohio State University, focused on the effects wildfires had on salamander populations, which he described as negative.
Other presenters touched on the wildfire’s effects as well, including its effects on vegetation and its beneficial effects on the diversity of bird species.
“Smoky Mountains is the self-proclaimed salamander capital of the world,” Peterman said. He focused his study on the plethodontid family of salamanders, which breathe through their skin.
“Kind of think of them as a walking lung,” he said.
High-profile cleanup to commence on South Knoxville Superfund site, but what about the other toxic sites?
Vestal community leans into future of multiple South Knoxville Superfund sites
KNOXVILLE — City residents are discussing the future of the Vestal community’s toxic sites after a long history of industrial use and activism that recently led to federally funded action to clean up at least one infamous Superfund site.
Vestal community resident Cathy Scott shared the history of each of these sites near Maryville Pike at South Knox Community Center during two Vestal Community Organization meetings related to the cleanup of multiple Superfund sites on the south side of the city.
She said in an email to Hellbender Press that much of her information came from John Nolt, formerly of the University of Tennessee Philosophy Department and author of the essay “Injustice in the Handling of Nuclear Weapons Waste: The Case of David Witherspoon Inc.,” which is chapter three of the book “Mountains of Injustice: Social and Environmental Justice in Appalachia.”
While the EPA is focusing on the Smokey Mountain Smelter site, Scott, Nolt and others have discussed other properties and their effects on nearby watersheds. The sites are all connected to the Witherspoon family. They are at are at 1508 Maryville Pike; 1630 Maryville Pike and adjacent land; 901 Maryville Pike and 4430 Candoro Ave. The meetings took place Feb. 13 and 22.
“It was a phenomenal accomplishment of community collaboration,” Eric Johnson, president of Vestal Community Organization, said of the two meetings.
Sandra Goss: Fly your flag for land and water
At cusp of retirement, Sandra Goss reflects on what she and others have saved
This is the latest installment of an occasional series, Hellbent, profiling citizens who work to preserve and improve the Southern Appalachian environment.
OAK RIDGE — I can see the view of Lilly Bluff Overlook at Obed Wild and Scenic River in my mind. The trees are bare save some evergreens. The stream I love to splash around in during warmer times is flowing between the slopes.
I can see the cliff face in the distance. It would be a great place to interview Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning (TCWP) Executive Director Sandra Goss; after all she and her organization helped preserve the area. It’s also near the places she grew up. She cited the experiences as inspiring her conservation ethic.
Earlier this winter, the Christmas tree in Oak Ridge’s Jackson Square was on its side due to icy gusts and I’ve called off meeting with Goss in person at Panera to avoid torturing her or me with the elements. We could hike, but not stand around.
I’ve seen her at TCWP Christmas parties in Oak Ridge and on hikes though, so just like Lilly Bluff, I can imagine her silver-white hair, smile and glasses as I speak to her by phone. I hear her accent, more Southern Appalachian than the Yankee-ish Oak Ridge accent I speak, nodding to her origin in Crossville.
Goss is retiring Aug. 31, and she’s looking back on her work and forward to the break.