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Short Springs storm cleanup begins

Posted on Wednesday, December 7, 2016 at 12:47 pm

TULLAHOMA, Tenn. — The EF-1 tornado with estimated wind speeds of 105 miles per hour that ripped through parts of Tullahoma last Tuesday also moved through the Short Springs Natural Area, uprooting and damaging trees and blocking trails.

Short Springs is a 420-acre natural area located about 3.5 miles northeast of Tullahoma and owned jointly by the State of Tennessee, TVA and the city.

The trails in the area span more than 3 miles, and the main features of the natural area are Machine Falls, dropping more than 60 feet, and the Upper and Lower Busby Falls on Bobo Creek.

Following last Tuesday’s storm that uprooted what supporters say are “tens of trees,” members of the Friends of Short Springs, a group dedicated to protecting the area, have mobilized to clean up the natural area.

Stuart Coulter, a member of the board of Friends of Short Springs, said that most of the trees in the area are poplar and oak.

“Tens of trees are down,” Coulter said. “There are two main loops out there, and many of the trees have fallen on these trails.”

According to Coulter, “Some of these trees either fell or broke. Some of them fell across our trail system, across the trails here and there. Some of those trees have a diameter of more than 2 feet. There are also many trees down just out in the woods.”

A number of local volunteers were cleaning up the trails on Saturday, according to Coulter.

“Most of them (volunteers) were members of the Friends of Short Springs or members of the Tennessee Trails Association. There is a local chapter of each of these groups, and their members work to maintain the natural area. We are fortunate that none of the downed trees are in a terribly difficult location.”

The main trail leading to Machine Falls has been cleaned and is now fully open, according to Coulter.

Coulter said people can also hike the rest of the trail, but need to be careful.

“On the other part of the loop there are still blowdowns that you could step over,” Coulter said. “And there are some areas with trees that people ought to just go around.”

The storm spared all the manmade structures in the park.

Dennis Horn, who is on the board of directors of Friends of Short Springs and is the director of the Tennessee Native Plant Society, said that all benches, wooden stairs and bridges are intact.

“As far as bridges over creeks, there are two bridges,” Horn said. “One of them is about 50 feet long and spans across Bobo Creek, which is a rather large creek. This bridge was built last summer, so it’s been in there for about four months. The other bridge is across the Machine Falls Branch, just below the waterfall. This bridge was built 10 years ago, and it’s a wooden bridge.”

The storm has spared both bridges, said Horn.

Endangered plant species not in danger

The Short Springs State Natural Area supports two state-listed endangered plant species and some plants that are rare for Middle Tennessee.

“There are two endangered plant species in the park,” Horn said. “One is called Nestronia (Nestronia umbellula). It’s a shrub that is about three feet tall. I discovered it back in 1982, and it was the first time it had been seen in the State of Tennessee. I don’t think there is damage to these species. There could be damage, but (these plants) come back each year, and they are in a dormant state right now. So I think they will return; even if they were damaged, they would still return next spring.”

The other plant on the state endangered plants list is called bunchflower. It’s an herb, and its Latin name is Melanthium latifolium, according to Horn.

The rare plants found in the area are also unharmed, said Horn.

“The lily of the valley is one that is rather uncommon in Middle Tennessee, and there is some of it in the Short Springs area,” Horn said. “The other plant that is rare is called barren strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides).”

All of those plants are herbs, except the Nestronia, which is a shrub, said Horn.

“I don’t think the herbs would be damaged because they are in the dormant state right now, too,” Horn said.

State has helped with the cleanup

State workers have also lent a hand with the cleanup process.

David Adams, stewardship ecologist for the State Natural Areas Program, said a crew from the state began removing some of the fallen trees last week.

“We are planning another cleanup day this week and will hopefully finish the majority of the work needed,” Adams said.

Members of the Friends of Short Springs are organizing a cleanup day on Dec. 31.

“We will have a maintenance event from 9 a.m. to noon on Dec. 31,” Coulter said. “Volunteers who are willing to help can just come out on that day.”

Coulter encourages volunteers to wear gloves and other protective gear.

—By ELENA CAWLEY, Tullahoma News Staff Writer

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