At the Trust, we don't think of our work as sexy: We aren’t developing the latest iPhone apps. We can’t give you tasting notes on local craft beers. And we definitely aren’t touting ways to trim that stubborn belly fat with PiYo.

Our work isn't trendy. And that’s okay by us.

Because our aim is not to be hip. Instead, we aim to be sincere in our work to meet a particular, timeless need: our community's need for space.

John Muir, one of this world's greatest naturalists, once wrote of this need:

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.

Each day Rick, Sarah, and I work to protect more landmaintain more trails, and tell more inner city kids about the river in their backyard because it is our part to play in healing this world. On the topic of healing, David Cook wrote in his recent Chattanooga Times column that – in order to reduce the violence in the world – “we must reduce the violence within ourselves.” He continues saying that to reduce our inner violence, we must be willing to take “the long, hard, and loving contemplative look at ourselves.”

As you know, it’s hard to be contemplative while scrolling through your Facebook feed. It’s even harder to begin loving and forgiving yourself (not to mention others!) when your boss is being passive aggressive and the printer is jammed and the light on your voicemail machine keeps blinking at you.

Contemplation – and the following peace – requires uninterrupted SPACE to cultivate.

Often, I’ve heard my boss, Rick Huffines, define habitat as “food, water, shelter, and SPACE.” His point is that – to be healthy creatures – we, humans, need elbow room.

We need places to go where we can be alone. Where we can play. Where we can breathe. Where we can be reminded of the natural world from which we came and also reminded that one day we will die and be absorbed back into her again.

We need space.

The Tennessee River Gorge Trust protects a huge amount of this elbow room – about 17,000 acres – that provide this community with a safe place to begin asking the hard questions that David Cook poses:

How do I heal others?

How do I hurt others?

What am I afraid of?

In nature, away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives, we can finally calm our frenzied lives enough to begin to grow our empathy. To begin to have patience for others. And, ultimately, to be at peace with ourselves and others.

In supporting the Trust, you aren't protecting trees for the heck of it. You are protecting these mountains so they – in turn – can save us.


Today, here are a few ways you can help protect this community's space.

#1 Buy shade-grown coffee.

Did you know your seemingly innocent cup of coffee may be contributing to the destruction of songbird habitat?

Migratory songbirds, like the Cerulean Warbler, love to spend their winter months in the shady forests of the Northern Andes. Incidentally, these forests also serve as the growing grounds for coffee beans! However, in attempts to keep up with increasing demand, coffee bean farmers are clear-cutting forests in the Northern Andes to plant a higher-yielding sun-grown variety of bean.

So how can you – as a single individual person – help? Seek out Velo Coffee Roasters new shade-grown coffee from Colombia.  The Tennessee River Gorge Trust partnered with Velo Coffee Roasters to bring this shade-grown coffee to Chattanooga in order to educate people about their buying choices.

This coffee is marked with the stamp below, and can be purchased at Whole Foods on the Northshore, at Olive Bean on Signal Mountain, or at Velo’s coffee bar on Main Street.

You can also grab a cup of Cerulean coffee with your brunch at The Farmer's Daughter! Our friends at Copacetic Coffee (the coffee bar located within The Farmer's Daughter) will be carrying the Cerulean Warbler coffee for about the next month. 

#2 Hike for your dinner.

“Where do you want to eat?”

“I don’t care. Wherever you want is fine.”

How many times have you had this tedious conversation in the car with your partner, spouse, or best friend? Instead of choosing between Rice Box and the Terminal, pack a picnic and head to Snooper’s Rock. Kill two birds with one stone by experiencing some ecotherapy along with your dinner. Actually, don’t kill any birds at all. Just chill out and let nature heal you.


#3 Take Instagram photos of things in nature and inspire awe in others.

While you’re out on your hiking date, take some photos of beautiful things. Inspire others to get out in nature and romp around. And if you make it to the Tennessee River Gorge, don’t forget to tag us in your photos. Our Instagram handle is @tnrivergorge.



#4 Do yoga for conservation. 

Love yoga and the Trust? You're in luck! Thrive Studio is donating all proceeds from their Friday community yoga classes in the month of July to the Trust!

Jimmy Urciuoli will be leading these classes at 10:15 am every Friday in July (starting July 11th) at Thrive Studio, located at 191 River Street, Chattanooga, TN 37405.

Call Thrive Studio at (423) 800-0676 with questions.