Gov. Haslam announces Seven Islands to become state park

Gov. Haslam announces Seven Islands to become state park

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The Seven Islands State Birding Park would be the first state birding park in Tennessee. The Seven Islands State Birding Park would be the first state birding park in Tennessee.
In front of the Legacy Parks Foundation sixth annual luncheon on Friday, Gov. Bill Haslam announced Seven Islands will become the 56th state park effective July 1, 2014. In front of the Legacy Parks Foundation sixth annual luncheon on Friday, Gov. Bill Haslam announced Seven Islands will become the 56th state park effective July 1, 2014.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A Knox County wildlife refuge is going to be turned into the state's first birding park.  

The 400 acre Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge is located just off Kodak Road on Kelly Lane along the French Broad River.

In front of the Legacy Parks Foundation sixth annual luncheon on Friday, Gov. Bill Haslam announced Seven Islands will become the 56th state park effective July 1, 2014. 

The Seven Islands State Birding Park would be the first state birding park in Tennessee.

"For a lot of people this has really become one of the main things they do for entertainment and they travel to it and has literally become a tourist destination and attraction for people who search birds across the country," said Gov. Haslam.

The announcement officially hands control of the county run wildlife refuge over to the state. 

Leaders believe the move will allow the state to promote and manage Seven Islands more effectively and capitalize on the bird watchers that already come to East Tennessee.  

The announcement wouldn't have happened if not for Pete and Linda Claussen.  Around 15 years ago, the couple bought 200 acres of land and donated it to the county to be preserved as a wildlife refuge.  

"It is really pleasurable to see something like this reach its potential," said Linda Claussen. 

The state hasn't developed formal plan, but birds are the main attraction as 183 different bird species here.  

Bird experts call seven islands a "wonderland" for bird watchers. 

"There are dozens of blue bird boxes here, birding in our community is very heavy," said Kathy Getsey, manager of Wildbirds Unlimited.  

Members with the Tennessee Ornithological Society already come here every week. Many hope bird watchers will help seven islands become a major tourist destination. 

"Birders are very dedicated group, and they're also a group that quite often has the resources to come into that community and make a difference in that community," said Getsey.

Local leaders hope the state transfer will ultimately bring more visitors and added tourism revenue to build on the efforts of the Urban Wilderness in South Knoxville. 

"This is just another piece of the pie," said Knox County Commission Chairman Brad Anders.  

Knox County Commission will still need to approve the land transfer over to the state.  

The final vote is expected to pass without any opposition at Commission's regular meeting on Monday.

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