By Richard Rourk
This week local artist and conservationist David Ramsey released his new book entitled, “Rocky Fork: Hidden Jewel of the Blue Ridge Wild.” Ramsey’s story, much like his book, is one that is a long and interesting journey.
Ramsey is a Unicoi County native who grew up to appreciate the wild and untamed nature that makes up his birthplace. Back in 1996, Ramsey got word that the area of Rocky Fork was going to be bought with the intent to develop a resort. Knowing the importance of the land to the Appalachian region, Ramsey said he had to get involved. Upon moving back to the area that year, Ramsey teamed up with Ed Williams III to save Rocky Fork.
“Ed worked on saving the land from 1996 until he passed away in 2004,” Ramsey said.
It was a grueling battle that was almost won early on.
“There was a time in 1998 and again in 2000-2001 that the land was almost purchased by the (U.S.) Forest Service, but the deals fell through,” Ramsey told The Erwin Record.
In 2005, the timber company that owned the land almost sold the land to developers for $30 million, according to a report by The Valley Beautiful Beacon newspaper. Ramsey again had to do something to save the land, this time without the help of conservation pioneer Ed Williams III. “I jumped in with both feet,” Ramsey said of starting the fight back up.
Ramsey was able to team up with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) to rally the community to fight the sale.
“After many years working on it, in December of 2008 we got 10,000 acres saved as public land,” Ramsey said.
Roughly 8,000 acres were presented to the Cherokee National Forest and 2,000 acres went to the State of Tennessee and that land is what makes up Rocky Fork State Park. The land was purchased for $40 million.
“The lead organization that was with us was The Conservation Fund, who put up $20 million, and the rest of the funds came from the State of Tennessee, the federal government, and some private donors,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey was honored in 2011 with Field and Stream Magazine’s and Toyota’s Heroes of Conservation Award for his work.
“I realized that this was such a great story and I received way too much credit for it, so I wanted all the organizations and individuals to get the credit they deserved,” Ramsey told The Erwin Record.
So in 2012, Ramsey began working on “Rocky Fork: Hidden Jewel of the Blue Ridge Wild.” The book takes readers on the adventure through the history of Rocky Fork.
“I think it is a terrific example of how different people can come together over a common goal, especially in a time of derision,” Ramsey explained.
You can get your copy of “Rocky Fork: Hidden Jewel of the Blue Ridge Wild” by going to www.ramseyphotos.com. On the home page, at the top of the page click on the purchase tab. On the purchase page, click on the Place Your Pre-Order tab in the upper middle of the page. Then click on the photo of the book cover in the upper left. On the next page click on “Rocky Fork book-19.95” at upper right. On the drop-down click on “View Cart” if you want to purchase the book & follow the usual purchasing steps. Click on “Register” if you want to receive info from time to time.
Ramsey will host a book launch at Farmhouse Gallery and Gardens on 121 Covered Bridge Lane in Unicoi on Sunday, Dec. 16, at 2 p.m. There will be live music from the Rocky Fork State Park rangers. Ramsey will be on hand to sign books and give a presentation of the story of his book, “Rocky Fork: Hidden Jewel of the Blue Ridge Wild.”