This is a contribution by Lula Lake volunteer Chris Purvis.
My name is Chris Purvis. I’ve been a Chattanooga resident since August 2015 and a Lula Lake Land Trust volunteer since April. I showed up at an Open Gate Day that Pat and Holley were working, signed a volunteer form, and I have been showing up at Lula Lake once a month, or more, since. I am an undergraduate student at UTC, pursuing a bachelor’s in chemical engineering with a GIS minor. After college, I’d like to combine that engineering background with my personal interests, and do work that aims to understand and quantify the human impact on our natural resources.
My interest in hydrology began during a backpacking trip in southwest Virginia in the summer of 2011. A few sips from a seemingly benign mountain stream made for a long and painful weekend. For a long time since then, my understanding of water quality came tangentially to my experiences as an amateur trail runner and more amateur angler: “Yeah, that stream water looks potable” (clearly not a foolproof method), or, “Hot day, low flow: no fish.” This past summer though, through Lula Lake, I had the privilege to become certified as a Georgia Adopt-a-Stream water quality monitoring volunteer. For me personally, this is hands-on experience that puts into practice things I’m learning at UTC (this semester, I took a Hydrology class). But the bigger benefit is to the Chattanooga Valley as a whole – the water quality monitoring under way provides a way to quantify the protection efforts that Lula Lake strives for in the Rock Creek watershed. However, the numbers and data (which can be viewed from the GA Adopt-a-Stream website) don’t tell the whole story.
Over the past few months, I’ve gotten to hear stories from “the locals” about how the Lula Lake core property and the surrounding area has changed over the year. Stories about “Insurance Bluff” – folks pushing cars off the bluff to get money from their insurance company. Stories about teenagers driving up to the bluff to make out in their cars. Stories about coal mining and rail activity on Lookout Mountain. Stories about how trashed the core property was before it became a land trust.
The overwhelming majority of feedback I’ve heard from Open Gate Day visitors has been positive, giving testament to the stewardship efforts that LLLT staff and volunteers do. And it’s encouraging to see how regenerative our natural resources are, going from “trashed” to thriving in a matter of a few years. On a small scale, that validates the work we do on the core property and the Chattanooga area. On a larger scale, it’s a reminder that our natural resources can bounce back even after they hit rock bottom.