Sycamore Shoals state park in Elizabethton to dedicate arboretum

John Thompson • Mar 18, 2013 at 8:49 AM

ELIZABETHTON — There aren’t many state parks that include a tree in its name. That makes it fitting Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area will hold dedication ceremonies on Monday at 2 p.m. for its new arboretum, which is certified by the Tennessee Urban Forestry Council.

Park Manager Jennifer Bauer said the park’s Level One is an opportunity to walk along a self-guided trail. A free brochure and signs placed beside the trees identifies the 36 different species that are primarily native to Tennessee.

Examples include the Tennessee State Tree, the Tulip Poplar, in addition to various species of oak, maple, hickory, and, of course, the sycamore. Other species include river birch, Eastern hemlock, Carolina silverbell, American holly and many more.

As befits a state historic area, some of the species in the arboretum have historical connections to Elizabethton and Carter County, especially the European larch, which was planted by German managers and engineers when the German firm of Vereinigte Glanzstoff Fabriken built two rayon factories just several hundred feet away in the 1920s.

Bauer said the varied blending of species in the arboretum will create a beautiful array of spring bloom and fall color.

While Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area was created to depict the area’s history, Bauer said the region’s trees played an important role in that history. To better understand the history, it helps to know how the settlers used the trees to help them survive on the frontier.

Of course it is obvious from just one glance at the recreated Fort Watauga that the settlers used the stout tree trunks to provide a stockade. That stockade proved its worth when the Cherokee attacked the forts in the area in 1776.

Bauer, who was a biology major focusing on botany in her undergraduate days at East Tennessee State University, said the trees also proved invaluable to the remote communities in providing shelter, foods and medicines. Tree and other plant fibers were used to make cloth and provide natural dyes. Settlers not only built log cabins, they also wore clothing dyed with walnut, oak and other trees. The trees helped sustain them with nuts and berries that were collected in baskets made with strips of wood.

A good understanding of trees was an important factor in surviving on the frontier. As the old Walt Disney song says of Davy Crockett, he was “raised in the woods, so he knew every tree.”

Bauer said the arboretum had its start under former park manager Herb Roberts.

“There weren’t many trees here when the park started,” Bauer said. “Herb planted several different varieties of trees.” She said the addition of the Tennessee Urban Forestry-certified arboretum helps visitors to the park learn about the diversity of trees that make up the forests of East Tennessee.

During Monday’s dedication, there will be an opportunity to meet representatives of the urban forestry council and volunteers who have been instrumental in bringing the arboretum to life. Retired East Tennessee Forester Martin Miller will conduct a tour of the arboretum following the ribbon cutting.

Bauer said she will thank several individuals and organizations for their help in creating the arboretum. They include the Carter County Park and Recreation Board which helped provide funding, the Carter County Commission, Joel Street, the Elizabethton-Carter County Chamber of Commerce, the University of Tennessee Extension, including Keith Hart and Beth Wolfe, Craig Jones, Brenda Warner, Tim McDowell and Friends of Sycamore Shoals.

Recommended for You