“Cedars of Lebanon has done a phenomenal job to protect and preserve the natural beauty of the area as well as the cultural significance of the park,” said Brock Hill, TDEC deputy commissioner of parks and conservation.
The park successfully revitalized 75 acres of degraded open meadow. Private landowners formerly used the area for crop production and grazing. Park staff developed a land management plan that included prescribed burns, chemical applications for invasive plant control, thinning of fencerows and planting of native grasses.
In conjunction with TDEC’s Division of Natural Areas and the Tennessee Plant Conservation Alliance, park staff housed and cared for the critically impaired running glade clover plant species. The park will relocate more than 200 plants to park property and state natural areas within the Cedars of Lebanon State Forest.
The historical significance of the park is obvious in the craftsmanship of some of the facilities, as well as the stories passed down within the community. Several original structures remain that date to the park’s founding during the Works Progress Administration in the Roosevelt-era. Several cabins and the iconic Cedar Forest Lodge received upgrades in 2017 that maintain the space’s historic character.
“Our lodge sees hundreds of weddings and private events each year,” said park manager Wayne Ingram. “I think the public is so drawn to it because of the historical beauty it offers combined with the modern-day amenities.”
With a grant from the Tennessee State Archives, hundreds of documents and artifacts were catalogued and preserved for the public to explore. In addition to physical keepsakes, the park plans to record oral histories of area families whose land became park property in the late 1930s.
Other improvements included the construction of a half-mile ADA-compliant trail, funded by a $150,000 Recreational Trails Program grant. Once completed, the loop will take visitors through the Nature Center’s Butterfly Garden to the eastern end of the meadow.
The annual Park Awards of Excellence – which honor five parks annually – were created to recognize exceptional work within Tennessee State Parks. The 2017 award winners were recognized at the Tennessee State Park annual park management conference in January at Montgomery Bell State Park. Parks are nominated by TDEC staff and voted on by Tennessee State Park leadership. Additional 2017 winners included David Crockett Birthplace State Historic Park for interpretation, Henry Horton State Park for innovation, Montgomery Bell State Park for sustainability and Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park as park of the year.
For more information about Cedars of Lebanon State Park, visit tnstateparks.com/parks/about/cedars-of-lebanon.