Long Hunter State Park, located on Percy Priest Lake, provides 32 miles of scenic hiking. Nature is the biggest asset of the park so when Girl Scout Troop 107 of Nashville noticed that social trails were forming and wild animals were being fed by hand at Long Hunter, it sprang into action.
Looking for a meaningful Bronze Award project, eight sixth-grade Girl Scouts reached out to Long Hunter Park Ranger Jeff Sweeney to see what they could do to sustainably help the park and its animals. The team came up with a plan to add signs to deter social trails on the Volunteer Trail off of Baker’s Grove Road. Social trails are off-the-map, visitor-made trails that break off from the actual trail and harm the surrounding nature.
On Saturday, Sept. 14, the troop went into action.
“The girls were a big help; they helped me install new sign posts and helped educate visitors on ‘Leave No Trace’ ” Ranger Sweeney said. “Our park is surrounded by the fastest growing cities and counties in Tennessee, which means we have more visitors than ever who love Long Hunter State Park. The Girls Scouts and I are trying to cultivate a sustainable trail use where visitors can enjoy the trails but not love them to death.”
Camille, Ellie, Gabriella, Julia, Maggie, Sara, Savannah and Shriya set out early and broke up into three groups, working nearly all day.
The first group set up a table at Couchville Lake and spoke with park visitors about the importance of not feeding wild animals to help limit wild animals’ dependence on humans. The second group set up at the Volunteer Trail parking lot, explaining to visitors about social trails and their effect on the park. On the Volunteer Trail, the third group worked with Ranger Sweeney to stake sign posts at the sites of the social trails.
“My favorite part was informing people about the trails,” Julia said. Shriya mentioned that “Long Hunter is a really great place, the nature is beautiful and we want to preserve it forever.”
The girls of Girl Scout Troop 107 do more than just care about the environment; they put that care into action. Their preservation of the park helps wildlife and keeps park visitors safe so we can all enjoy the park for a very long time.
Reminder: Mark your calendars for the 38th Annual Tennessee Indian Education Pow Wow on October 18-20. The event will take place Long Hunter State Park. Please go to www.naiatn.org for more information.
Molly Stophel is the front desk clerk for Long Hunter State Park. She grew up walking the Couchville Lake Trail and still considers it her favorite part of the park.