Holley (far left) with three other volunteers on a trail day in January.

It’s true that as a South Cumberland native, I reveled in the beautiful hiking at Lula Lake for years before applying to work here. In the nearly ten months now since I began my post as the land trust’s Americorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) member, I’ve learned a great deal more about nearly every aspect of the organization’s efforts to protect, preserve and expand this incredible natural resource for the breathtakingly biodiverse Tennessee-Alabama-Georgia region.

Open Gate Days are indeed wonderful opportunities to explore Lula Lake’s nearly 800-acre core preserve, and I used to catch them whenever I happened to be passing through the area at just the right time; but as a VISTA at Lula Lake, I’ve learned so many things I didn’t know about the behind-the-scenes work of the dedicated staff and inspired volunteers. This has been one of our goals over the past year, to educate the public about everything we do above and beyond Open Gate Days and to share with interested folks the intricacies of managing a land trust that distinguish us from, say, a public park.

During my time as Lula Lake’s VISTA, I’ve savored the countless pleasures of endlessly exploring the core property and surrounding holdings as well as the satisfaction of knowing that every hour of work I contribute means more natural features will enjoy protection from encroachment by developers; more students and community members will develop lasting relationships with the cliffs, caves, waterfalls, forests and trails we cherish; and more programs for environmental education and volunteering will provide avenues to increasingly substantive involvement by community members in furthering the land trust’s mission to respectfully and sustainably practice conservation, education and recreation atop Lookout Mountain.

In much the manner a paid internship would function, I’ve had the chance to put my experience and knowledge to work via practically every aspect of operations at Lula Lake. I’ve assisted with social media promotion as well as written and assigned blog posts for our website. Informed by my work with local teachers and educators, I’ve established an environmental education guide and will soon convene our first education steering committee. With the support of local partners like the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute and Trailhead Nursery, I’ve helped manage the construction and planting of a pollinator garden on the core property. Working alongside the trust’s three permanent staff members, I’ve applied for grant monies to support educational programming and volunteer work days. We’ve also trained community members in sustainable trail building methods and water quality monitoring… Of course, these merely scratch the surface of the myriad ways in which my time here has deepened my skill sets, introduced me to influential community members and further encouraged my interest in meaningful work for the natural environment.

If this sounds like a job you or someone you know would enjoy, we’ll soon be interviewing for a replacement to start work as Lula Lake’s Education and Volunteer Coordinator with Americorps VISTA to start in late April!

To contact us directly, Email: pkelly@lulalake.org – Call: 706-639-3099 

And here’s where to find information about Americorps VISTA:
https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/americorps-vista

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