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Gift of mountain land in Shady Valley honors a departed Nature Conservancy board member

Eighty acres of beautiful mountain land in Johnson County have been added to a Nature Conservancy preserve in Shady Valley, thanks to the foresight and generosity of an Oak Ridge couple. Sadly, the May 20 land donation is not just a gift, but also a loving tribute to a departed spouse and friend of conservation.

Back in 2007, Teresa Myrick and her late husband Tim wanted to leave a legacy of protected mountain land for future generations. That’s why they donated a conservation easement to The Nature Conservancy, restricting development on a treasured tract of mountain land they bought for their retirement. The property is located adjacent to the Conservancy’s John R. Dickey Birch Branch Sanctuary in Shady Valley. Teresa and Tim, a former Oak Ridge National Research Laboratory engineer, became solid supporters of The Nature Conservancy, and Tim went on to become a board member for the Tennessee Chapter of the Conservancy. The couple looked forward to spending many years together on the scenic property.

However, Tim passed away far too early, in December 2014 at age 60 of cancer. As Teresa thought about the future of their mountain land, she knew what Tim would have wanted. She realized he would want her to donate it outright to The Nature Conservancy to be protected and cared for.

A big part of Tim and Teresa’s relationship was their mutual love of nature and the outdoors. Their leisure activities, which included hiking and canoeing, inspired them to first purchase the scenic Shady Valley property and then donate a conservation easement to the Conservancy.

Teresa, who manages a farm and herb business near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, describes how owning the land was like “owning your own national park,” as it is surrounded by incredible mountain and valley views, wooded areas, ponds and a stream that attracts deer, turkey and the occasional black bear. Tim and Teresa had visited every national park in the United States together, and the scenic Shady Valley land was truly a gift to the couple and a reminder of their travels across the nation. Inspired by these travels, Tim invested time and effort into conserving their property—introducing native grasses to the land to increase biodiversity, building more than 20 bird houses for many different species of birds and treating hemlocks for woolly adelgid insect infestations.

Gabby Lynch, The Nature Conservancy’s Director of Protection for Tennessee, says the “Myrick tract provides nice examples of Southern Appalachian oak hickory forest,” and shares the “same forest types and animal communities” as the Conservancy’s adjacent John R. Dickey Birch Branch Sanctuary—469 acres of densely forested Appalachian mountain land. The Myrick property is located immediately south of the preserve. Both the Myrick property and the Birch Branch preserve have streams that flow into Beaverdam Creek. Aside from its natural beauty, the land possesses great native biodiversity and is an ideal habitat for many species of plants, invertebrates and mammals.

Teresa Myrick feels confident that Tim’s conservation legacy will be secure and protected in this special landscape by The Nature Conservancy and its staff.