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Work continues to connect the Cumberland State Trail

The Access Fund recently purchased two properties in Rhea County.

People come from all over the world to spend time outdoors in Southeast Tennessee, North Alabama, and North Georgia.

"Getting out climbing, trail running, hiking, enjoying a waterfall you know these are all things that make us feel good and help us get through another work week," Zachary Lesch- Huie said.

Zachary is a rock climbing advocate. He's the National Affiliate Director and Southeast Regional Director for the Access Fund.

"Access Fund is the national climbing advocacy and conservation group," Zachary said. "We basically work on behalf of all rock climbers to make sure our ability to go climbing is preserved, and that we do good things for climbing areas and communities where climbing areas are."

Julie Reed is also a climbing advocate and the president of the Southeastern Climbers Coalition.

"The climbing community is growing and so obviously more opportunities to give people more access to the outdoors to see different places is great," Julie Reed said.

And that's the goal for these advocates like Julie and Zachary and the Access Fund. They're working to find new areas like this to help grow opportunities for rock climbers.

Zachary told us The Access Fund recently purchased two properties in Rhea County along the Cumberland State Trail, "The Dogwood boulders access property and another property just a few miles from here called the Hell's Kitchen Boulders we purchased both in one deal, and now what we're working on is fundraising to pay off the purchase price and also to do stewardship .

There are several ways to help out with the project including clearing trails and through donations to help pay for the newly purchased property. The properties will help add on and connect the Cumberland State Trail.

"It's got to be one of the premier trails in Tennessee and maybe in the country," Zachary said. "It is a long system of properties and it's almost all connected."

And there are people working to connect the rest.

"There's little gaps in that linear trail system that the state and a lot of non-profits like us are working really hard to put together," Zachary said.

The southern end of the trail is just a few miles from downtown Chattanooga. It runs from Signal Mountain on the southern end to the Tennessee/Kentucky boarder at the northern part of the trail, and this mission has more benefits that just rock climbing.

"It's good for the economies the local communities here, Zachary said. "Outdoor tourism is a real way to bring money to local communities especially rural places. It's also good for your health."

This project is just beginning, and there are several ways to help out.

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