Camp Montvale site preserved
By Joel Davis | (email@example.com)
The former Camp Montvale property now has a permanent land protection agreement to prevent development.
Foothills Land Conservancy has announced that 364 acres of woodlands, cabins, creeks, ponds and hiking trails on the site will be preserved through a land conservation easement.
Sam Furrow, the Knoxville auctioneer who foreclosed on the property in 2009 after buying out the debt of a financially-struggling development group, was finally able to meet the legal requirements to put an easement on the property.
He is leasing the former camp to Harmony Adoptions, which is raising funds to buy the property outright and plans to reopen it as the Harmony Family Center at Montvale. The center will be a residential adoptive family treatment program — the first in the nation.
Harmony CEO Pam Wolf was joyful about the completion of the easement, which has been in the works since at least 2006.
“Is that not the best way to start the year off?” she said. “It’s been a long journey, but we are making some progress. We’re so tickled to have that done and in place. We can continue with our fundraising to buy our portion of it, do the renovations, and get fully operational by spring.”
Wolf praised Furrow’s dedication and generosity in seeing the easement through.
“Sam Furrow is an amazing man, and an amazingly generously man,” she said.
In September, Pilot Flying J committed to donating $100,000 toward the opening of the center. Harmony Adoptions continues toward the opening of the former site of the much-loved camp, which has been closed since 2005. Fundraising to buy the property is under way.
“We have been pugging away at fundraising since then,” Wolf said. “We had a wonderful gift from the Clayton Family Foundation, and they are going to help us renovate office space out here.”
Camp Montvale is located off Montvale Road just past Six Mile Church, at the foot of Chilhowee Mountain. FLC Executive Director Bill Clabough said that all the easements acquired in Blount County are important but finally reaching an agreement on Camp Montvale was a special milestone.
“Camp Montvale is so historic,” he said. “Along with what Harmony Adoptions is doing out there, it’s really a great thing for Blount County.”
The community has rallied behind the project to give the camp a new life, Wolf said. “We had over 3,000 volunteer hours between May and December. People have just been unbelievably generous. Now the real work starts to raise the money to finalize the purchase, but we’re moving right along.”
The conservancy has also announced the establishment of a conservation easement for the 60-acre Phelps property at the base of Chilhowee Mountain.
Another property is adjacent to an existing 900-acre easement on Hurricane Mountain. In December, the Hurricane Mountain Conservancy placed a 67-acre easement on adjacent lands with Foothills Land Conservancy. The property overlooks Hesse Creek and West Millers Cove and is part of the trail system for Blackberry Farm guests. The tract includes a chapel and cemetery.
Currently, FLC protects more than 30,000 acres in Tennessee counties. There were a total of 19 easements granted in 2011, covering 4,400 acres.
The last few years have been very successful ones for the FLC, which topped its goal of preserving 25,000 acres by its 25th anniversary in late December 2009 with the last-minute signing of a conservation easement for 1,898 acres of the Three Sisters property on Chilhowee Mountain.