Viewpoint: Is Cummins Falls losing its lore?
Liz Engel Clark
Monday, Jun 4, 2012
But, I’ll have to admit, the whole charade made me just a little bit sad. Not because Cummins Falls, tucked away in nearby Jackson County, wasn’t worth saving, and not because all the people who had worked so hard for its cause didn’t deserve this grand occasion, but because it felt like a secret that I – and so many others – had enjoyed for so long was suddenly sprung on the world. It’s like hearing a song by your favorite no-name undercover band on pop radio. Suddenly, everyone else loves them, too.
See, while I was a student at Tennessee Tech, Cummins Falls was almost like a right of passage – its story was handed down from generation to generation, its tricks and trades, steep inclines and slippery slopes were the stuff of lore. And, because it was essentially private lands, the roadway to its magnificent waterfall and swimming hole was somewhat mirrored in mystery. Only the worthy, or so I thought, knew the route, the parking places and the lure.
Over the course of dozens of visits, I got to know Cummins Falls well. I hiked down to its base many a time, a strenuous journey that included maneuvering down a frayed rope as part of the descent. That rope is still infamous among college classmates, who clamored on Facebook about its foreseeable future. (FYI friends, the rope still hangs for now, but plans are calling for its removal. One person, who shall remain anonymous, told me they didn’t really want it gone, but alas, greater powers – and I’ll admit, for the greater good – safety concerns, will soon prevail.)
But now just anyone can go.
They say the falls – as a state park – will be an economic boost to the community. It’s a stat I’ve already quoted often, but one state officials love to tout, that for every $1 invested in a state park, there’s a $37 economic impact. TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau even joked during the ceremonies that he’d like that kind of return on his 401(k). Wouldn’t we all?
Most likely to gain, obviously, are Putnam and Jackson counties – arguably moreso Putnam and Cookeville, who will see the biggest piece of the pie. Cookeville leaders were just salivating at that thought. But Jackson County Mayor John Cason said they’ll definitely benefit as well. There’s a possibility that more niche businesses will open on Gainesboro Grade. Chamber guru John Dennis mentioned kayaking, ziplining and other outdoor-like businesses have been some of the ideas thrown around.
“We don’t have any definite numbers, and I’ve heard some different ideas, but we’re already had some impact, directly related to the park,” Dennis said. “We have a new Dollar General in Dodson Branch, built, to a great extent, I’m sure, because the expected increase in traffic.”
That’s all well and good, but Kathleen Williams, one of the driving forces behind May’s ceremonies, put it in perspective ever-so-eloquently. And it sure snapped me out of my little mini-funk. She’s a lady who’s had more passionate for this project than most anybody I’d seen. And, on that day, she was as proud as could be.
Maybe, just maybe, it was destined as a place for all to share, after all.
“People in 100 years, they won’t know any of us were here today, or that we had anything to do with this,” she said. “But they’ll be blessed by it, and I’m just so thankful for that. It’s a dream come true. It’s just a dream.”
Yes, yes, it is.
Liz Engel Clark is the editor of the Upper Cumberland Business Journal. She can be reached at (931) 528-8852 or firstname.lastname@example.org.