Zachary Lesch-Huie caught the climbing bug hard in high school, and has since climbed all over the country. But when he first visited Denny Cove in southeastern Tennessee, with its lifetime of climbing routes, he knew the property had to be conserved.
With the threat of development looming, Lesch- Huie was overjoyed when the Open Space Institute and its partners stepped up and protected the 685-acre Denny Cove property just 30 minutes from Chattanooga. The Open Space Institute led the way with $380,000 in seed money to advance the conservation project. From here, local partners, including the national nonprofit rock-climbing advocacy groups the Access Fund and the Southeastern Climbers Coalition, leveraged additional funding to secure the Denny Cove property before adding it to South Cumberland State Park.
With unique, multi-colored sandstone cliffs, Denny Cove offers a veritable amusement park of low overhanging walls, massive roofs, slabs, cracks, and corners. In addition to the great climbing potential, the property features a 70-foot waterfall, and scenic overlooks. And with plans in hand to add miles of hiking trails, the Denny Cove property may one day provide new access to the popular, and distinctively named, Fiery Gizzard Trail, also located within the state park.
“Through the years, southeastern climbers have seen so many of their best climbing spots become threatened or lost,” says Lesch-Huie, the Access Fund’s Southeast regional director. “The same could have happened to Denny Cove, but the incredible support of organizations like OSI ensured the area was saved forever.”
An ancient landmass of compacted sedimentary rock layers, the Southern Cumberland Plateau towers more than 1,000 feet above the surrounding landscape. It is bisected by deep crevices and permeated with caves. It is the largest forested hardwood plateau in the world, and supports many endemic species and protects them from climatic changes. The Southern Cumberland Plateau is also severely threatened by quick-sprouting subdivisions and massive property sell-offs.