The History of Protecting the Tennessee River Gorge

The Tennessee River Gorge Trust is the perfect example of what can happen when a small group of thoughtful citizens comes together to change their community for the better.

The Trust was founded in 1981later incorporated in 1986as the result of a dinner party at Adele Hampton's house on Signal Mountain. Chattanooga-area citizens gathered around her coffee table to discuss the worrisome development of the mountains bordering Chattanooga. Right there in the Hampton's living room, Chattanoogans decided these mountains were worth protecting. Since then, the cooperation of landowners, TVA, the State of Tennessee and the local community has led the Trust to protect more than 17,000 of the 27,000 acres in the Gorge.

But they were far from finished. As an up-and-coming city, Chattanooga is at a critical point in its history with more incoming business, jobs and investments than ever before. The Tennessee River Gorge Trust recognizes that growth equals development. And developmentif not done consideratelycan threaten natural lands. The health of our lands is directly tied to the health of our city. Land preservation cannot be an afterthought or a bonus.

This is where the Trust comes in. They work everyday to ensure that Chattanooga-area citizens understand the value of land protection and, second, live their lives with that knowledge at the forefront. Whether you are a school teacher, an architect, a land developer, or a stay-at-home mom, everyday you are interacting with the natural world if only by breathing clean air and drinking clean water. We will only continue to have these healthy shared resources such as clean air, clean water, and open space, if we as a community decide to always protect our lands.

The Tennessee River Gorge Trust is responsible for keeping the conversation around land preservation relevant and alive. They rise to meet the challenge of a growing Chattanooga by engaging with the community through new media efforts, through local partnerships with schools, universities, foundations and fellow land trusts, and finally through a new emphasis on citizen science. It is important to ensure that Chattanoogans are regularly reminded of the value natural lands have in each of our lives.

In a 1968 speech made in New Delhi to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Baba Dioum wisely stated, "In the end we will conserve only what we love. We love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught."

At the Trust, they will continue to teach and educate the city on the value of our natural lands. It is then up to Chattanooga citizens to rise up from their seats around the coffee table and decide to conserve these mountains and river that we love.


For more information on the Tennessee River Gorge Trust, visit

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