TPL acquires key piece of Fern Lake watershed property

A 2,171-acre tract of land that protects the drinking water for residents of Kentucky has been purchased by The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and will eventually be added to the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, TPL announced. The property is a key piece in an effort begun by TPL in 2004 to protect the approximately 4,500-acre Fern Lake watershed on behalf of Middlesboro, Ky., located just outside the park...

• Site will become part of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

MIDDLESBORO, KY, Dec. 16, 2008 -- A 2,171-acre tract of land that protects the drinking water for residents of Kentucky has been purchased by The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and will eventually be added to the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, TPL announced.

The property is a key piece in an effort begun by TPL in 2004 to protect the approximately 4,500-acre Fern Lake watershed on behalf of Middlesboro, Ky., located just outside the park. It can be seen from Pinnacle Overlook, one of the park's most popular visitor spots.

TPL purchased the property from a client of The Molpus Woodlands Group, LLC ("Molpus Woodlands Group") at a cost of $3.3 million and will sell it to the National Park Service (NPS) in phases.

"This purchase will ensure the continued supply of safe, clean drinking water to people in Middlesboro," said Rick Wood, TPL's Chattanooga Field Office Director. "It will also save an important historic area, and promote economic development through the potential for tourism. TPL was pleased to help make it happen and appreciates Molpus Woodlands Group's commitment to conservation and willingness to work with us."

Dick Molpus, President of Molpus Woodlands Group, said, "We believe in the conservation mission of The Trust for Public Land. We are glad we were able to help achieve its objective of protecting the water source for the people of Middlesboro, Kentucky, while remaining consistent with our client's investment objectives and its objectives of responsible forest stewardship."

Congress created Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in 1940 to preserve the "gateway to the west," a natural gap in the Appalachian Mountains crossed by almost 300,000 settlers as they moved from the East in America's early years. The park is known today for its scenery, caves, rich history, and more than 70 miles of trails.

"This acquisition is a major victory for both the park and the community," said Mark Woods, Superintendent of Cumberland Gap NHP. "It means protection of almost all the land around Fern Lake and that lake's watershed has provided drinking water for the city of Middlesboro since the late 1800s."

TPL's purchase will also protect the view from the park's popular Pinnacle Overlook, where visitors look at three states: Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia. "It is the most popular overlook in the park because of the spectacular view," Woods said.

Phase I of the Molpus property (1,266 acres) will be transferred to the National Park Service next month, using $1.9 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) secured last year by U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and U.S. Representative Hal Rogers, both of Kentucky. When money to buy the remaining 905 acres is available, TPL will convey the last phase to NPS. In previous years, Sen. McConnell and Rep. Rogers had secured another $1.9 million from the LWCF to protect the watershed's first 1,850 acres. This project was made possible through their leadership in securing enactment of the Fern Lake Conservation and Recreation Act included in the 2004 Consolidated Appropriations Bill.

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park stretches for 25 miles along Cumberland Mountain and contains almost 24,000 acres of historical, cultural, and natural resources.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national private nonprofit conservation organization founded in 1972, protects land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness.

The Molpus Woodlands Group (MWG), LLC, a Registered Investment Advisor, acquires, manages and sells timberland as an investment vehicle for pension funds, college endowments, foundations, insurance companies and high net-worth individual investors.

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