So the time has finally come, WE ARE DONE WITH SURVEYS!!! It was a long twelve weeks being out in the hot summer sun and we are glad that we did not have to do any make-ups this week. Our last week doing surveys was bitter sweet because although we were happy to be done using connect-a-desks, we are not all ready to leave Nashville yet. We are very thankful that over the course of the summer we did not really experience any major problems. At the beginning of the summer we all hoped that everything would run smoothly and we got extremely lucky with weather as well as technical issues.
To celebrate the conclusion of surveys we decided to have a barbeque with our neighbors. Our neighbor Brandon created his own brine recipe and smoked a gigantic pork loin all day Sunday. Side dishes that we prepared and included Mac & Cheese, stuffed portabellas, corn salsa, and a sweet potato pie for dessert. The meal was delicious and we stuffed our faces with food until we couldn’t take any more. It was great way to celebrate being done with surveys and it was nice that we were able to hang out with our neighbors before we leave in just a few days.
The next morning, after sleeping through our food comas, we woke up and headed east to the Smokey Mountains! Since we were so close to the Smokey Mountains living in Nashville, we all discussed taking a trip at the beginning of training. The drive was just a little over three hours through the rolling Tennessee hills and when we first caught a glimpse of the mountains, there was a moment of silence in the car. Seeing the fog rest at the top of the mountains was breath taking and better than any picture of it. Once seeing that, we were all more eager to get to the campsite to hike around and explore nature.
Once arriving at Cosby Camp Grounds we chose the perfect two campsites that were right next to each other with a fire pit in-between them. Sam and I declared these campsites to be “The One.” We quickly set up our tents and headed off to do a quick hike before the sunset. We did about a four mile hike that led us to beautiful waterfall where we hung out for a little before heading back. On the way back it began to get dark and the trail got a little more difficult. We had to be careful with where we were stepping so we did not sprain any ankles or injure ourselves in any way. Towards the end of the hike Sam claims to have seen a bear after he heard something move along the side of him. Once we returned to camp we started a fire and just relaxed before passing out. The next day we went a few separate ways that included more hiking, fishing and just relaxing.
We returned back to our house Wednesday afternoon and now we are beginning to pack up everything. Our travel day is Monday and we will all be going our separate ways. Sam and Erica will have a week off and then they will be traveling to the Mojave Desert for another internship with the SCA for desert restoration. Brenna will also be doing another SCA internship in Massachusetts beginning in October dealing with environmental education as well as trail work. Lindsey will be staying in the Nashville area and is going to work for a sign company. Stephanie joining a Leader Crew working in the Sierra National Forest for a bit, then is looking forward to having some free time to herself to be able to catch up with people that she has not been able to see in a while. Finally, I will be relocating to Cincinnati next week and begin working for a logistics company.
We are all sad to be leaving Nashville. It feels like just yesterday we were cramming all of all belongings into this small place that we have called home over the past three months. We will all remember our time spent together in Nashville and be sure to stay in contact with each other in the future.
Peace & Blessings!
Written by Tyler Frisbee
Team Monster Nash woke up early(er than usual) to make the almost 2 hour drive to Cummins Falls, a Tennessee State park where we would carry out our last CP. Just barely making the poorly marked turn onto a long gravel road, we pulled into a large expanse of open parking lot, decorated with nothing but bleached gravel and a small informational sign. We were the only car. Where was the ranger?
We creaked our bodies out of our cars, stretched in bastardized yoga poses, laid on the ground in the sunlight, and waited. I slumped on the dusty rocks like a slug, lethargic from the long car ride. Sam hollered and attempted to thrash Erica with a left behind walking stick. Tyler and Lindsey waited in the cars and camping chairs ever-patiently, singing their favorite Nicki Minaj songs. Stephanie looked like a funky Mary Poppins, holding one of our busted survey umbrellas to protect herself from the sun. Eventually someone found that the other road, which was gated off, was actually unlocked. We drove down and behold! There was the head of the trail to the falls!
Stephanie talked to Ray on the phone, who apparently had been tied up with a project at Fall Creek Falls and that meant there was more waiting. It gave us time to walk down and take a look from the top of the cascades, nerdily observe the diverse and abundant fungi under the old oak trees, and eat our lunches.
Soon enough Ray met up with us, a seasoned and chipper Ranger, and explained that he wanted to cover up some areas of trail with brush in order to divert people away from a path that has been created down to the top of the falls. Coincidentally this was the area over which we had just crossed. Oops.
Cummins Falls, Ray said, was only recently converted into a park from an old family private property, and was fairly untouched. The path down to the falls had been used informally for a long time. He seemed to enjoy it, mentioning that he had a lot of freedom in shaping trails and pioneering projects. This was a new perspective and a break from the heavily used and trail-less Army Corps Rec areas, and the bustling Radnor lake trail. He was visibly glad that we could help out.
We gravitated towards a fallen tree, where Ray some technical difficulties starting up his chainsaw. He bore this with the most contained frustration and level patience of any person I’ve ever seen toiling with a stubborn machine. His only visible betrayal of irritation was in his slightly strained smile after about the 15th attempt. Eventually, Ray miraculously started the chainsaw and we began carrying segments of felled tree to create a helter-skelter arrangement of a barricade.
We moved 5 or so trees into a thicket of logs and twigs/ covering back to the edges of the trail. Soon enough it was time to stop and admire our work. It looked as if a deranged beaver had become confused and attempted to make a dam on-land. Although it was a hot mess of a blockade, we concurred that it would certainly prevent people from walking through.
We chatted with Ray and thanked him. We then wasted no time to pick our way down to the falls and enjoying the rest of our day in the beautiful sun, and the cold, clear and roaring water.
Written by Brenna Taylor
Our second to last hitch began with the summer days starting to wind down, and cool air beginning to envelop Nashville. Well, cooler air. It's still been in the 90s most days, but the low 90s. Which means
our shirts aren't as soaked at the end of the survey period. And sometimes, if we're up early enough, or stay out late enough, there's actually a little chill in the air.
As the summer dwindles, so have our visitors. School began a couple weeks ago, and with the start of school we have seen fewer and fewer faces. I believe this summer I have spoken to more people in a
three month period than I have in a usual year, even two year period. There have been many busy days this summer, when I have had to barrel through a survey, speaking as fast as I can while still being coherent. With summer visitation winding down, we can take surveys a little slower, talk to people a little more, and let some kids ramble on for a little longer. Some days it feels as though visitation is down to just the regulars. People who have done the survey, six, seven, ten times already this summer. While there are quite a few grumblers, lamenting about the number of times they have done the surveyand not wanting to do one more; it's been a pleasant surprise to see the regulars who will take thesurvey without one complaint. Some even give their e-mail each time. And most always want to say how much the park means to them.
Although we have become fully familiarized with our surveys (we are now able to put out cones and signs blindfolded at each site, as well as repeat survey questions in our sleep); it feels like we have just barely scratched the surface of getting to the know the area we are in. It's been pleasantly shocking to see how beautiful middle Tennessee is. These past couple weeks we've been trying hard to visit as many of the parks, Army Corps and State Parks, as we can in the area. While working out at Cordell Hull, Sam and I took the opportunity to camp out at Defeated Creek, an Army Corps campground on the lake. We must of seen at least fifty deer in one night. The following week myself along with Brenna and Sam headed out to Fall Creek Falls to spend a couple nights camping. We climbed down a cable trail to get to the base of a falls you could swim under. Hiked to another falls, the tallest falls east of the Rockies.
And spent the night within skunk heaven. Fully habituated, a couple skunks were running around the campgrounds, visiting each site, trying to get into our coolers and garbage cans.
Another great break to the routine came when our project manager, Alex Olsen, came to visit us for a couple nights. He joined us for a conservation day of hauling rocks. He also brought us a rap that has
been traveling to each of the ACE VUS teams. Our sick (sick in all its meanings) project leader, Steph, finished most of it (maybe all of it). I think we can honestly say, we got you all beat VUS teams. Bestof all, we were treated to a nice meal for all our work for the summer. If the next Nashville team is reading this, you all need to head to Mas Tacos Por Favor. They have amazing pulled pork tacos,
veggie tacos, horchata and elote.
My time as hitch leader came to a close with just one week left of surveys. I think there is an overall anxiousness among the group right now. Most of us took this position in order to explore career
options, and hopefully find a full time position afterwards. Which is exactly what we all got out of this summer. After finishing our internships, we are all going to spread out across the country Our group will be heading to the Mojave, Chicago, Cincinnati, Massachusetts and one of us will be staying in Nashville. There's also a little anxiousness to try and see as much as we can before most of us have to leave this place. It's been amazing to have Nashville so close by, while still having plenty of parks to
explore, hike, swim and camp at. We still a couple more weeks of exploring, which is by far not enough. I hope the next group takes full advantage of all the beautiful sites and great music Nashville
has to offer.
Written by Erica Mutschler
It’s déjà vu all over again. Conservation Day 11 has the crew back out at one of our favorite projects, Cordell Hull Lake, to pick up where we left. We caught up with Ranger Sarah Bates in the newly opened Cordell Hull Visitor Center where we spent some brief moments perusing their awesome flora and fauna displays. We jumped out and spied our old friend, the oversized life jacket stencil, peeking out of Sarah’s truck and followed it and Sarah to Salt Lick Campground.
First thing up for the day was splitting into teams of three and roving around Salt Lick Recreation Area with a stack of comment cards and water safety freebies. The teams talked to some friendly campers, passed out coloring books & key chains, and collected a handful of filled out comment cards. This is routine work for the Rangers so we were happy to help Sarah out, but we were also ready to get painting.
Having painted docks previously with the life jacket and ‘WEAR IT’ stencils we took it up again like old hands. We took turns rolling and brushing orange, blue, and yellow and in no time had four docks and boat ramps done up. Drowning fatalities are possibly the most serious concern for any Army Corps project so we are happy to do anything that might have a positive affect on visitors as they recreate in the Nashville District. Plus, we make these docks look good.
Finishing up we realized it was the last conservation day we would have on Cordell Hull Lake. It is an awesome area of Tennessee with breath taking natural spaces and though we are sore to be leaving it now, count on it we will be back in the years to come.
Written by Sam Cox
For our Conservation Project on August 16th, we traveled to Radnor Lake on the south side of Nashville. Our fearless crew leader Stephanie was feeling under the weather so she was not able to join us, but luckily our Program Manager Alex Olsen was able to come with us because he was visiting the team during this time. Radnor Lake is an extremely beautiful State Natural Area that covers over 1,200 acres and is home to river otters, beavers, mink, muskrats, bobcats, coyotes, and white tailed deer. While we were there, we only observed a few white tailed deer with their young. Throughout the area there are several miles of well kept trails that are open to the public daily. The reason why there is a lot of wildlife present is because there is not hunting allowed within the park so the animals are safe.
The Rangers that supervised and helped us on our project were Ryan, Jesse, and Sam. Ryan and Jesse were full time rangers at the park while Sam was a seasonal helper that hopes to land a full time position soon. They told us about some of their fun experiences that they have had since working at the park. One of the tragic stories that they told us was about the 2010 floods that washed away over two miles worth of trails and wiped out part of the road that runs within the park. Sam said that it took several months of manual labor to fix the trails in order for visitors to use them again.
Our Conservation Project was to transport large rocks from the access road to a part on one of the trails where a new bridge is being built. The rocks are going to act as an erosion preventer so that the bridge is able to remain sturdy and not be washed away by fast rushing water during heavy rains. The bridge that they previously had in the area was not able to hold a lot of weight and the one they are building now will be able to hold at least twice the weight of the previous one. We were transporting the rocks in wheelbarrows, pushing them a distance of about 200 yards through the park. For the first load we all took a large portion of rocks but we were soon regretting it about 100 yards into the journey. For the trips that followed we cut back on the amount of rocks that we took each time in order to not pass out on the trail.
Once we were finished for the day and arrived home we all crashed hard and did not do much the rest of the day. When we woke up the next morning our bodies were aching with soreness and it was tough just to get out of bed. Overall the conservation project was a great workout and the Rangers really appreciated our help for it would have taken them several weeks to do the work that we did in a few hours.
This week we were back at Old Hickory Lake with Ranger Allen Earhart. After deftly constructing and placing the fish attractors the week previous, we followed in the vein of building homes for the creatures of the lake and having covered the underwater citizenry we looked to the sky. Army Corps of Engineers regularly places and upkeeps both duck boxes and bird houses and so we jumped into the process.
We met with Ranger Earhart, Ranger John Baird, and SCA Ranger Intern James Flannery and traveled into the Army Corps of Engineers Environmental Study Area (ESA). First up were the duck boxes. The boxes themselves (really just oversized bird houses) had already been fabricated by previous volunteers and so all we needed to do was set the support post into the ground and screw the box onto the post. We set one in the water itself from off the boat and the other we placed directly onto a Sycamore tree near the water’s edge. We screwed a green plastic spike point onto one end of a 4x4 post so that we could hammer it into the lake bottom. Tyler took up the task and sledge hammered the post into place in no time. Soon the ESA had two new duck boxes added to it's collection. In a few weeks we plan to head back to see what little things, ducks or not, have found new homes there.
We then headed to the Old Hickory Visitor Center to pick out the best spots for two blue bird houses and one wren house. Walking down to the archery range just behind the visitor center we found a perfect place for one blue bird house and the wren house. We took turns with the post hole digger and tamp rod to chew down two feet and then placed the 4x4s, onto which we screwed on the wood houses. Both wren house and blue bird house are similar save for their openings, the blue bird house having a singular hole toward the top of the house while the wren house has a rectangular slit. We placed the second blue bird house just behind the visitor center, careful not to cut any sprinkler lines.
Putting in these types of wildlife structures is not an everyday task of the Army Corps Rangers so we were happy to be able to join them this day. It is likely the houses and boxes we’ve placed will remain just so for many years. For some of us it may just be years till we’re back in these spaces so here’s to many generations of Duck, Blue Bird, and Wren!
Written by Samuel Cox
The nearing-end of the summer finds us somewhat in a surprised stupor, perspiring in every possible bodily nook and hunched over, gripping at our connect-a-desk computer holsters like soon-to-be mothers, jaws agape. It’s already week 9!!
It’s mid- August in Tennessee. The days pass by, mostly pleasant, and we are only slightly encumbered by abrupt climatic shifts: from dense and melodic downpours, to heavy sun and mashed-potato-thick humidity, to a finally tolerable high of 80 that carries a hint of cool in the air. Team Monster Nash has settled comfortably into the mechanical routines of waking up, downing gallons of coffee, setting up surveys, and rattling off questions with machine-like efficiency to lines of antsy park visitors. Alongside the work routine, there has been plentiful exploration of Nashville’s delicious food, enjoyment of the amazing variety of music, and beautiful natural areas. All of this alongside our own cooking, grilling, togetherness, poking fun at on another, pranking, lamenting spells of restlessness, and Olympic-watching marathons.
The closing weeks also finds many of us figuring out our arrangements post-Nashville. Teammate Tyler Frisbee successfully landed a full-time “big-boy” job in Cincinnati as a sales account Executive and Lindsey Mcknight has had several promising interviews in the Nashville area. Samwise Cox and Erica Munchy-Mutschler will be heading to the Mojave Desert to learn survival skills, camp, and restore ATV-ravaged natural areas very soon after we finish with the Desert Corps Restoration crews of SCA. I myself will be going to rural Massachusetts for a 10-month education and trails internship, also with the SCA.
Starting out, it didn’t seem like this position was directly related to any of our career goals or was even a first choice for any of us. We all have had minor woes about it and definitely couldn’t do it forever. We have days that drag, days when visitors complain relentlessly complain about having done the survey at LEAST 60 DANG TIMES ALREADY! Days when the mosquitoes bite an elaborate mosaic into one’s forearm, or the vehicle lines seem to back up into oblivion and one can perceive a dark and unpleasant scowl on every driver’s face.
But for every one of those days, there is a visitor with a big smile, grateful, jovial, joking and willing to do the survey 30 times or more. Or there is a mother with an elated child next to her, chiming in with amusing details (“WE CAUGHT A BOAT TODAY! I MEAN, FISH!”) There are very friendly panting dogs hanging out the windows of exiting cars, kind and joking Army Corps Rangers offering us water, and lengthy lunch breaks spent swimming and floating in quiet, beautiful lakes.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I have really enjoyed this position for many reasons. At least to have explored a new and beautiful place, to be launched into another internship, and have been part of a pseudo-family with some very awesome people for a little while has been a bonus.
Written by Brenna Taylor
“So, how do you age a goose by it’s poop?” was the first phrase uttered out of Ranger Earhart’s mouth. We began our conservation day at Old Hickory Lake with a smile and a giggle. Today we constructed fish attractors with old palates and Christmas trees with Rangers Allen Earhart and Cody Flatt. We fastened three pallets together in a triangle, wired them shut, and attached a small Christmas tree to the top. There are also three to four larger Christmas trees (tinsel still clinging amidst the branches) cabled together at the trunks. All are weighted by makeshift anchors from plastic, concrete-filled planter pots with a cable passing through PVC piping in the middle. The Christmas trees have to be completely dried out before placed in the lake otherwise they spread toxins throughout the water, killing fish rather than attracting them. This contraption eventually provides habitat due to the concentration of algae that grows on the Christmas trees drawing small fish, which in turn are consumed by larger fish. This gives local fisherman a whopping chance to reel in some igloo teamers, a goal sought by Army Corps Rangers. Involvement in community outreach projects such as this draw in more people to recreation sites and are a highlight of a Ranger’s position.
Clearly, one of the disadvantages of the job is the heat paired with humidity, so we all proceeded to a projection room at the Old Hickory Visitor Center to enjoy our lunches in the confines of sweet AC. After lunch, Allen was given the green light to take us on a boat tour to Old Hickory Lock and Dam. We were all ecstatic at this news since our first boat tour was stolen by a Timber Rattlesnake researcher and the second sabotaged by a faulty, sinking pontoon. We took the tour in threes and were informed that Old Hickory Lock and Dam is a lower-constructed dam, not built for flood control, but more for hydro-electric power. Old Hickory Dam operates not only power for itself, but for Cheatham and J. Percy Priest dams as well.
It is always a great time conversing with Rangers and each has different knowledge about recreation areas and their surrounding culture keeping us thoroughly entertained with their witticisms and situations they have encountered. So, it turns out you cannot age a goose by it’s poop, but we spent the entire morning avoiding the land mines surrounding Hunter’s Point boat ramp.
Written by Lindsey McKnight
The rain has graced us on hitch four! Huge thunderstorms rolled in and gave us some awesome lightning shows while driving the temperature back below the hundreds where it belongs. We were happy to have some cooler days and our lawn was more than ready to flush from brown to green, but obviously the rain presents some challenges for a group with computers strapped around their necks. “Well, bring on the challenges,” we say! At this point ACE Nashville District is a well tuned survey machine!
Conducting surveys in the rain is a team venture and one of improvisation. Often times the solution is an easy one. One person with computer approaches an exiting vehicle and conducts a survey in the manner we have come to know as standard. Except! Secretly, unbeknownst to the visitor, the second team member hides behind the first with an ingenious device. The rare and mysterious umbrella appears to hover, weightless, just behind the surveyor’s head. Simple and functional, still other techniques have been used. Some teams have utilized the rain flies from the Deuter day-packs to wrap around the computer, which is somewhat successful. Some teams have created a cave for the computer in their rain jackets. If the rain proves too much for these bold styles, I’m afraid the only option left is to head to the car and count drive-bys. Teams have had to implement this last, ultimate strategy a handful of times in these rain filled weeks.
Of course it hasn’t rained everyday this hitch and after those good storms and good rain the sun was back and we were back out in it. Now that we are past our half way point, day to day operations have become smooth and tasks throughout the day are done without having to be stated. On the home front we have instigated a weekly dinner list along with our weekly chore list. Each week every team has at least one day to prepare dinner. This way, teams getting back home in the evening can come back to a ready dinner and teams that either had the day off or worked a morning shift can work together to find and cook new recipes or practice their kitchen skills. Dishes we’ve enjoyed thus far have included Portobello burgers, baked sweet potato fries, a zesty meatloaf, crispy seasoned asparagus, potato chip cheesy mashed potatoes, barbeque chicken, and homemade pizza.
The summer continues to beat along here in Nashville. We’ll report back soon with more goings-ons and more tasty meals!
Written by Sam Cox
Some Haikus about
Painting Docks and a Dam Tour
Conservation Day, Cordell Hull
Groggy bodies move
Drive through green hills and arrive
Hills murmuring calm
Rangers and fences
Lead us to the beastly Dam.
Unyielding to trout
Obstructed, the Cumberland fuels
Homes for the people.
Old-school control board
Panels, TVS, blinking lights
And one man stares, sits.
No-nonsense tour guide
Flicks her cig in the spillway
“Those mills are covered in led!”
Toils of a machine
Clogging with trash and seeping water
Pondering the future
a smiling “bye!”
better than some, not so bad,
Yankees and liberals.
We are handing out
Comment cards to spread
Safety to swimmers
Sitting by the lake
Eating lunch chatting with our
Two friendly rangers.
Defeated Creek camp
Kind couples, demure, in sun.
Grinning in hammocks.
Painting WEAR IT, bold
orange life jackets on docks.
we work as a team.
Our morning began as usual: waking up, stumbling to the kitchen, stumbling around the kitchen and waiting for some coffee to brew. After making our lunches and getting enough coffee to start to
function, we set off for J Percy Priest lake. We began the day meeting rangers Matt and Carter at the boat ramp. The plan for the day: this team was getting it's first boat ride for the summer. For two months we've been interviewing boater after boater. We've been tantalized by their pontoons, motorboats, and occasional kayak. Plus, each day we've had to hear Tyler sing “On a Pontoon,” with no
opportunity to actually get on one. As you can imagine we were ecstatic to finally get a chance to experience the lake from the water. After the five of us strapped up with lifejackets, we set off … on our first pontoon!!!
Usually used to carry buoys, the pontoon was transporting us to an island that was in desperate need of trash pickup. We made one quick stop at a marine fuel station, and then we were off to the island. Well,we started on our way to the island, however the pontoon was not willing to carry us all. Our tour boat started to lean to one side, getting a little too low for comfort in the water. After some quick checks Matt and Carter decided it was best not chance it, with the possibility of us swimming back to shore. After motor boating back to the boat ramp, Matt and Carter went on a search for another boat for us. Unable to find an available boat, our tour of the lake from the water turned into a tour on land via a Chevy Tahoe. Matt and Carter took us to some great sites that none of us had thought to venture to yet. We saw Walter Hill, Mona boat ramp and West Fork, to name just a few. And along the way we were entertained by story after story from Matt and Carter. Here are but a couple of the stories for your enjoyment:
Patrolling the lakes everyday, the rangers encounter a variety of people. Some a little more colorful than others. One of Matt's more colorful experiences came when a camper approached him, complaining of a 'coon in the area. The camper bellyached the 'coon was running around drinking people's chocolate milk. The camper said he saw the 'coon open up his cooler, take the chocolate milk out and drink it. When the camper confronted the 'coon, the coon replied “not 'til I'm done drinking.”
One of the more tragic events the rangers encountered occurred the day before this conservation day. While Matt and Carter were patrolling West Fork, a recreation site with a parking lot and boat ramp, they spotted off the side of the road a body in the ditch. It was later found that the person was shot and killed not on site, but dumped there after. The police quickly identified and arrested the assailants. Luckily this is a rare occurrence for the area.
On July 12th we traveled to Cheatham Lake to spend our day with Ranger Mike Kuntz. The morning started off with us winding through the back country roads just outside Ashland City to find the Lake’s main office. When we arrived, we quickly noticed that the office was a small trailer that was cram-packed full of stuff. Before we were even able to ask about the situation Mike explained to us that their old office building was wiped out during the 2010 flood. He said that water quickly rose up from the river and destroyed just about everything in they had in the office. Mike described how they were frantically tossing files from the office to a rescue boat that was waiting outside. The most tragic event that Mike explained probably was the story about a gentleman who was working on the Lock and since the water rose quickly his only option was to climb up the tallest tower and wait for a rescue boat in order to avoid the rushing water.
The construction of the new permanent office building was set to begin the day of our visitation and was expected to be complete by early next year if weather permits. In order to avoid the chance of floods again the new office building will be built on an area of raised soil. Mike told us the floods of 2010 were very uncommon but it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to building their new office.
As we set out to do our work for the conservation project, Mike drove us around the Lake and showed us some of the sites that we were not familiar with. A lot of the sites were just boat ramps with not much else to them. Mike showed us one of the Lake’s more popular camping sites which had around 30 camping spots with a lot of things for visitor’s to do. There were horseshoe pits, swimming areas, plenty of fishing spots, and Mike even said that they were planning on putting in a sand volleyball court.
When we finally arrived at our first spot to clean up, it was full of trash that visitors had left. In order to have some fun we joked about assigning points to rare items that we might find while cleaning up. Some of the odd things that we found included a pair of snow boots, tons of little “M150” energy drinks, a cooler, and even a TV. With the six of us and Mike working hard, we were able to clear the area of trash in a very short time period. We finished up collecting well over 10 bags of garbage.
Dealing with the grossness of the trash was not the only factor we were faced with. We were constantly walking through spider webs and feeling like we were going to become their next meal. Another issue that one of our team members faced was being a magnet for ticks. Over the short period of time that we spent picking up trash at the site, one member found three ticks that were hoping to suck her blood. Luckily she was able to get them off before they got too attached. On a brighter note, we did come across a baby turtle that I named Teddy. He was a very cool little turtle that just wanted to hang out and enjoy our company. I think he might of cried a little when we left to head to our next site.
The second site that we cleaned up was a popular fishing spot for locals that was located right underneath the dam. When we first approached the area we were overwhelmed with the extreme stench of fish that fisherman were using for bait. There were also a lot of fish carcasses that people just left after filleting them. With the combination of the extreme rancid stench and scorching heat, we cleaned up the area quickly to escape both elements.
To finish up our day, Ranger Mike showed us a few of the secluded sites that were on the lake. On the drive to the office a few of the members were so exhausted from the long hot day they ended up passing out in the back seat of the SUV.
All-in-all it was a good conservation day and we all agreed that Cheatham Lake was a great place if you were looking for some peace and quietness.
Written by Tyler Frisbee
It is business as usual working for the Army Corps of Engineers. Every day we throw on our oversized highlighter vests, and add to the farmer’s tan and sweat. During the first week of our third hitch, Tennessee reached record highs in triple digit weather (up to 109!). Busy times thrust us outside the comforts of our shade tent, but even sitting, we were covered in a constant sheen of sweat.
Some of the most enjoyable aspects of this internship are the opportunities to explore Nashville recreation areas and interact with various visitors and employees at recreation sites. Visitor repertoire varies across lakes and presents a new experience daily. Most are willing to joke and talk with us, while others get angry, and some have other motives as the howling at female surveyors suggested. We have gained firsthand insight about how much visitors treasure these areas with personal stories. A gentleman that regularly visits Cordell Hull’s Roaring River rec area, visits daily to let his dog, Rusty, watch the deer and there is another group that contacts the Army Corps to assist with upkeep of rec areas.
The second week, storms brewing in the Southwest provided a necessary reprieve from the heat, but presented obstacles at surrounding lakes. A flash thunderstorm at J. Percy Priest Lake forced Group C into their fancy rental during the busiest time at Anderson Day Use, counting over one hundred drive-bys and Group B witnessed a felled tree upon leaving Brush Creek at Cheatham Lake. On a more serious note, paths had to be cleared for emergency vehicles because of a passed out visitor and a drowning at Cook Rec Area.
A massive amount of celebrations occurred with Brenna’s 23rd birthday followed by Erica’s 25th and the 4th of July! When one walks into our humble abode they are presented with a ‘Happy Birthday’ cut-out constructed from Ritz boxes (here at the SCA, we conserve and re-use everything possible) and balloons strewn about the house. We are still kicking balloons around! Downtown Nashville was crowded on July 4th with the firework display at Riverfront Park. Celebration ensued until the wee hours of the morning as we cruised from live music venue to the next.
It is hard for all of us to believe that we are already almost halfway through the season, but we are still rearing to go! Though it looks like the drought is continuing to heat things up, we are excited at what the remainder of the season has to bring.
Written by Lindsey McKnight
Today's conservation project took us outside of Nashville and over to Center Hill Lake. Center Hill Lake runs through the Cumberland Mountains, and is nestled among hills and limestone rock bluffs; making the early morning two hour drove well worth it. Our plan was to spend the day learning what it would be like to be a ranger for the Corps of Engineers. Our hosts were rangers Matt and Josh.
Josh, a former marine and graduate of Tennessee Tech has been with the Corps of Engineers for three years. Like most rangers we have been meeting, he was recruited while a student at Tennessee Tech. Tennessee Tech and the Corps of Engineers have a coop program, where a student will be spend one summer and semester working for the Corps, often resulting with the student becoming a ranger after
graduation. Matt is also a Tennessee Tech graduate, and has been with the Corps for a few years. Both were great hosts, taking us around Center Hill Lake, answering an abundance of questions, and keeping us entertained with plenty of stories.
Our first stop with the rangers was Pates Ford Resort & Marina. The marina has a slew of boat slips and docks, filled with double decker pontoons with slides, as well as smaller pontoons, speed boats andhouse boats. It has a convenience store on the docks, as well as Fish Lipz Restaurant, which plays host to bands from Nashville during the weekend. We were there to attend a planning meeting with the rangers, the owner of the marina and Center Hill resource manager Kevin. The marina leases 80 acres from the Corps. Currently the marina owner is planning on adding campgrounds and cabins. The meeting was for the owner and the Corps to make an assessment of the environmental feasibility of the project. A primary concern was centered around the tree removal that would occur to make room for the campgrounds. In 2010 the white-nose syndrome spread to the bat population of Tennessee. The white-nose syndrome is a fungus that spreads through bat to bat contact, with a mortality rate of 95% among bats who catch it. To help protect the bat species, tree removal is severely restricted, mainly to the winter months. While this project could take months to get approved, it is far quicker than new projects which usually take 2-3 years to acquire approval.
The marina is just one of many businesses and residences which leases land from the Corps. Back in the 1940s when the dam was being planned, the federal government bought land from current landowners, mainly farmers, on space that would soon become Center Hill lake; as well as the surrounding flood plains, which includes land up to elevation 698 ft-the elevation at the top of the dam. The Corps manages the flood plains, ensuring there isn't excessive building. The restriction of building ensures that minimum damage occurs in times of flood, and ensures the watershed area stays intact. In 2010 middle Tennessee experienced a 100 year flood, during which most of the land was flooded. Part of the rangers job is to hike the elevation line of the dam around the lake each winter and ensure no one is illegally building.
After having lunch at the marina, we travelled with the rangers to more sites on and around Center Hill Lake. We saw beautiful beaches, picnic areas and campgrounds; met site residents; and heard story after story. A major part of the ranger's job is patrolling the sites, often spending a third of the day driving to each. In doing so the rangers are the primary public face of the Corps. A main project they are working on this summer is working with the community on water safety. Last year 10 people drowned on Center Hill Lake. The majority were men in their 20s, who were out on their boats inebriated. The Corps is focusing on teaching kids about water safety now, in hopes they'll make better decisions later on.
Another project we learned about at Center Hill is a rattlesnake tracking project. In its approximately fifth year, a ranger has been placing chips in the rattlesnakes, tracking the movements around Center Hill. Although not a project, we also learned of some activities in the area, such as noodling (the act of fishing for catfish with your bare hands- we have yet to meet someone who has done it) and jugging(another form of catching catfish, by running lines between jugs). Along with learning about projects and activities, we got a few short histories lessons as well. For instance we learned of the attempted bombing of the dam at Percy Priest lake. Turns out in 1979 a 26 year old man placed a case of dynamite at the dam, thinking it would be enough to blast the dam open and flood the downtown. His plan was to loot the stores once the downtown was fully flooded. Fortunately the case of dynamite he used barely made a dent in the dam.
Josh and Matt were great hosts. We're looking forward to continuing to work with the rangers on future projects over the next couple months.
As the surveys began to get into full swing over the past two weeks, there have been a few commonalities that each group has experienced. The first thing that each group has experienced is the stories that are shared by visitors that are Tennessee Natives who love coming to the parks for recreation and sightseeing. One gentleman that we met at Percy Priest Lake said that he has been coming to the lake for several years while he is on his way to, and home from, work. He comes for just a few minutes each time to look out across the water and see if there are any fishermen out having luck catching the big ones. Another elderly woman that we met at Old Hickory Lake comes to the park every morning to feed and talk to the ducks. She explained that she loves the ducks and it annoys her when children run after them while trying to relax.
The second commonality that each group has experienced is the wide variety of excuses that park visitors try to come up with in order to avoid taking a couple minutes to do the Visitor Use Survey. A lot of the excuses are outrageous and hysterical. I approached one visitor driving a mini-van with his spouse and children riding in the back and at first he was willing to take the survey but just seconds later his infant son began screaming that he went potty in his pants. The dad began laughing but his wife quickly gave him the “we need to go look” and then without hesitation he said that he could no longer take the survey and had to go home. Another funny excuse that one gentleman gave us was that he was in a rush to return home so that he could mow his lawn.
The final commonality that each group has had to deal with while surveying these past couple of weeks is the heat. The Nashville area is currently experiencing an extreme drought. We have not felt a drop of rain in several days and the temperature just continues to rise on us. Just a few days ago we made history in Nashville for the hottest day ever recorded in the city. It was a whopping 109 degrees and you were not even able to take a step out of the house without breaking a sweat. Our visitors have also complained about the heat because it has caused the water levels to lower and fishermen have blamed the heat for poor fishing outings.
All in all the surveys have been going great and we have already interacted with so many interesting visitors. We are looking forward to the many more surveys in the next couple of months and we are excited to continue exploring Nashville in our down time.
Written by Tyler Frisbee
This past Thursday, Team Monster Nash, bodies fueled on Lucky Charms and cheap coffee, embarked on a 2-hour journey to Dale Hollow Fish Hatchery. After a drive laden with lengthy radio sing-a-longs (Jewel, ZZtop), hillsides spotted with sun-lazy cows, antique Coca-cola signs and rusted vehicles, and a brief introduction with our amiable Ranger, Spencer, we arrived at the fish hatchery. There we met the calm, intelligent and thorough director of the hatchery, Andy, who has worked at Dale Hollow for 15 years.
Andy showed us diagrams of the hatchery, and explained that Dale Hollow is one of six in Tennessee and one of 66 in the States. The hatchery produces over 300,000 pounds of fish a year, almost solely for a high demand of recreational fishing. I say “almost” because the hatchery also provides a stock of Rainbow trout, an endangered fish species. The outcome is around 40,000 visitors and $35 million in tourism for Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama each year. Dale hollow provides cold-water habitat trout to replace warm-water fish, such as bass and walleye, which suffer in the cold-water streams created by the dam. It is evident that fishing is a way of life for many in these areas. As Andy said, his home and the homes of many would not exist without the Dam and the hatchery.
We toured the indoor and outdoor “raceways”—long, narrow concrete pools where the fish are fed and raised. Andy told us that eventually, the fish are released into the waters at a size of 6-8 inches. Until then they are bathed in a saltwater wash to eliminate nitrogen, fed, and sorted by size. This is the daily task of the Fish and Wildlife workers, who we witnessed in the raceways, slowly wading through thickets of miniature, darting trout.
After touring the hatchery, we drove to Pleasant Grove recreation site, a favorite site of ours, where we ate lunch and chatted in the humid but pleasant air. Spencer, like many of the Army Corps rangers we’ve met, grew up in Tennessee and joined the Corps through a Tennessee Tech and Army Corps co-op program. He seems to like his work, and mentioned that in spite of the hot days and occasional wild, daredevil visitors, he’s grateful to have his job.
Post-noshing, Spencer pointed out two areas on the island at Pleasant Grove that needed some work. We split our group into two, half of us painting railings, benches and pavilions, and the other half clearing an area on the edge of the island intended for fishing.
After a couple hours of work, Stephanie, Tyler, Sam and Spencer cleared the jungle of brush like trail-making machines, deftly avoiding. By the time Lindsay, Erica and I were finished painting our hands and some other body parts were abundantly stained the color of melted chocolate bars. We were all excited to clean up, thanked Spencer and dove excitedly into the clear and cool waters of Dale Hollow Reservoir, more refreshing and purely energizing than a can of Red Bull.
After ten days of training in Carnation, our crew finally arrived in Nashville! It was bittersweet for everyone to leave the comfort and beauty of the River Ranch Girl Scout camp, but it felt great to finally be in our new home. We spent a day or two getting familiar with the area and organizing our belongings. Brenna and Erica made a shelf for their room out of a large cardboard box. Their craft made everyone smile, though wagers have been made on just how long the box can remain to be called a shelf! We spent a day at Old Hickory Beach (one of our survey sites) getting some Tennessee sun and getting a feel for the type of spaces will be surveying over the season. Over the weekend the group made a trip downtown to get to know the city better. I can sum up our visit with two words: neon lights! Nashville’s reputation for music did not fail to deliver as our ears were buzzing from band after band playing into the night.
Meredith Bridgers, who trained the crew in Washington, arrived that Sunday to figure out a game plan for the site visits that would take place in the days to follow. The site visits were a way to familiarize ourselves with the areas and decide on the best locations to set up our traffic control. J. Percy Priest was the first lake we went to. It was a long day! There was lots of driving and nothing too exciting in between, but we were beginning to get into the rhythm of a survey day. The next day our crew made the haul to our farthest sites at Cordell Hull and Dale Hollow. Everyone soaked up the rolling landscape as we drove the two hours east towards the Appalachians and claimed favorites on these deeper lakes. We spent half the day at the Pleasant Grove site on Dale Hollow Lake swimming underneath a footbridge that stretches 100 feet across from the mainland to an island that used to be a campground. We heard that this was a favorite spot of the locals and we could see why. The next two days we finished up all visits at Cheatam and Old Hickory Lake and were feeling ready and excited to begin surveys. Our week of site visits was done! Meredith came over Friday and brought everyone ice cream as a thank you for work we would put in over the season.
After recovering from our ice cream sugar comas, the first day out surveying finally began June 13th. We have 3 separate teams that are each responsible for 6 sites. Everyone was happy to get out in the field and actually do what we came here to do. One thing is for sure, people in Tennessee love to fish and they love their lakes! It wasn’t long before all the teams became familiar with the survey and were able to run through them smoothly and confidently. In the short time that we have been out in the field, we have had sunshine, rain, busy days, slow days, friendly chatty Cathy’s, and disgruntled grumpy visitors. We have gotten a few folks that drive past all of the traffic control setup and don’t give so much as a look as they drive by and a few that want to know if we are hiring. On days when it is slow my partner reads aloud excerpts of memoirs from a book. Then, I do feel pretty lucky to have this job! Overall it has been really nice to converse with the people of Tennessee this first week and the team is looking forward to more of it.
Written by Stephanie Deckman and Sam Cox
We woke up to clouds and a forecast that called for rain. Our planned hike and cleanup at Center Hill looked and sounded less and less appealing. After a quick vote, our crew decided to look into other options for the day. We spent the morning cleaning, preparing, and sorting through the required equipment for surveys that would begin the following day. Because it had not yet rained, we decided to gamble against the odds and spend the day at Bicentennial Capital Mall Park and local farmers market in downtown Nashville.
The Farmer’s Market has had a place in downtown Nashville since the 1800’s. To give you an idea as to the extent of it, the Market is said to cover about 16 acres of urban land. It is open year-round and is divided into 3 major sections. The Farm Side consists of two large covered sheds and a middle market area home to anywhere from five to one hundred farmers and other artisans and local merchants. Over the weekend, there is also a flea market with all sorts of independent craft persons and entrepreneurs. The third section is a Market House that offers nine restaurants and other merchants selling goods.
After exploring a bit, we strolled across the street with our freshly bought peaches to the Bicentennial Park. We started at the beginning of what is called the Pathway of History on the west side of the park. We took our time walking alongside a 1,400-foot detailing the history of Tennessee. It is engraved with geologic and historic events that have shaped Tennessee, beginning on 10,000 BC and extending to Tennessee’s 1996 Bicentennial. The wall 'breaks' around the time of the Civil War, in order to represent how much the state and nation was divided during that time period. Walking the Pathway of History put us in a unique physical relationship with the perspective of time where everything seems to be happening so quickly and so slowly.
About halfway through, we stopped and ate our lunches underneath a tree in the park. We had all walked the Wall at different paces and it was nice to reconvene and share with each other our thoughts and emotions toward the things we had read. It was clear, even at that point, that we all had a new appreciation for the state in which we are now living.
The next exhibit of the park we explored was the World War II Memorial. There is an 18,000 lb. granite globe floating on 1/8 inch of water! Displayed on the globe are the countries as they were during the war. You can actually turn the globe with your hands, which is pretty neat. On large slabs of granite around the globe are events such as the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the Battle of the Bulge. A short distance away from this is what’s known as the Carillon and Court of 3 Stars. The carillon, a collection of bells, contains 95 bells in 50 columns and represents the musical heritage of Tennessee. Every quarter of an hour the carillon plays a section of the song ‘Tennessee Waltz’. At the top of each hour the carillon plays the entire ‘Tennessee Waltz’, the strokes the hour, and then plays three more Tennessee related songs.
Unfortunately the Capital building was under construction as well as other parts of the park that had been damaged by a flood in 2010. But everyone enjoyed the first Conservation Project downtown and we are looking forward to next week!
Written by Stephanie Deckman, Lindsey McKinght, and Sam Cox
Uriah Stone, a hunter in the 1700's, navigated up a small river that was later named in his honer. He was taken aback at the beauty of the open grasslands and forrested areas that teemed with wildlife. These hunting grounds were utilized by Chickasaw, Creeks, Shawnees, and Cherokees. Stewart's Ferry Reservoir was created under the Flood Control Act of 1946 and was later renamed J. Percy Priest after the late congressman from Tennessee. Construction on the 33,0540-acre project began in 1963 and was completed by 1968.
J. Percy Priest Dam impounds a lake 42 miles long and can be seen from I 40. 10,000 acres of lands are devoted for wildlife managment and is surrounded by 18,854 acres of public lands. It is located 10 miles from Nashville providing a variety of outdoor recreational activities such as camping, fishing, hiking, swimming, canoeing, boating and others.
Located in North-Central Tennessee, Cordell Hull Lake covers approximately twelve thousand acres. The lake is named after the American Politician Cordell Hull who was from the great state of Tennessee and is best known as the longest serving Secretary of State. Hull also received the Noble Piece Prize for his role in helping establish the United Nations.
Cordell Hull Lake is a part of the Cumberland River which stretches 688 miles across Kentucky and Tennessee. Activities to enjoy around the lake include fishing, hunting, camping, picnicking, boating, hiking, swimming, and multiple other ways to enjoy nature. The annual weather in Tennessee allows for visitors to enjoy the park for an extended recreational season. Popular species of fish that are commonly found in the lake are Bass, Rockfish, Catfish, and Crappie.
The Roaring River site at Cordell Hull Lake provides visitors with a lot of different ways to enjoy their time at the site. The Roaring River site has a beach area, play ground, sand volleyball court, trails, and boat ramps. If you come to visit Cordell Hull Lake I can promise you that you will not be disappointed with your decision.
|Project Site: J. Percy Priest|
|Project Site: Cordell Hull|
|Project Site: Old Hickory Lake|
|Project Site: Cheatam Lock and Dam|
|Leader Contact Information|
|Ms. Stephanie Deckwoman (Project Leader)|
|Bio for Samuel Cox|
|Erica's Bio :)|
|Introducing Ms. Lindsey McKnight...|
|Tyler Frisbee's Amazing Bio!|
|Well Nashville, It’s been real. It’s been fun. It’s been REAL FUN.|
|Conservation Report: Cummins Falls State Park|
|Hitch 6: Coming to a Close....|
|Conservation Project 11: Comment Cards and Painting|
|Conservation 10: Rock Solid|
|Conservation project 9: DuckBIRD BoxHOUSE|
|Hitch 5 Report|
|Conservation Project 8: Old Hickory and Fish Attractors|
|Hitch 4: Bring on the Rain...|
|"On a Pontoon......"|
|Conservation Project 4|
|Hitch 3: "I'm Sweaty and I Know It"|
|On Patrol at Center Hill....|
|Conservation Project 3: A Day at Dale Hollow|
|Hitch One: Site Setups and Surveys!|
|First Conservation Project: A Walk Through Time|