Cranberry clash in Shady Valley

Mark Twain is alleged to have said “In the West whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting. In Shady Valley, you might say “Cranberry juice is for drinking; water is for fighting. As the Bristol Herald Courier reports, a water dispute has broken out between the Nature Conservancy, which built low dams to create bogs for the southernmost growing cranberries near Mountain City, and the Shady Valley Watershed District (SVWD), which wants to tear those dams down.


The latter group is well named, for they were the shady characters in the 1960s who brought in the U.S. Corps of Engineers (our motto: We straighten streams) whose efforts all but wiped out the tart berries. The SVWD, fearing floods, wants to knock down the dams, and the Nature Conservancy doesn’t want that to happen again. The Conservancy filed a Federal lawsuit to halt the dam busters.

Now comes the Cranberry Festival this weekend, with both groups staffing booths to raise money and build support for their sides. The Appalachian Voices blog has some good background on the situation.

I’m pulling for the Nature Conservancy. This group has bought land and done everything they can to preserve this unique aspect of Tennessee flora. When the Ice Age had Massachusetts and other northern areas under ice, it was the Tennessee presence of cranberries that saved the species in North America and, as the ice retreated, enabled the berries to grow in northern bogs and to become a thriving industry and a staple of Thanksgiving dinners.

4 Responses to Cranberry clash in Shady Valley

  1. tennesseeguy says:

    This piece about the festival quotes some old-timers who remember picking cranberries before the streams were channelized:

  2. the one says:

    I believe that those who live in Shady Valley and have been raised there have a point. There is no group who has the right to take what the men and women have worked so hard for. It seems to me that there are those who just want to make a name for themselves with the appearance of doing a good thing for the enviroment. I know what a great deal of water and flooding do. There is a place that once was where people worked, farmed and lived. Now, it is under water when the lake is high enough. All the farmers in Shady Valley want to do is have a home that they have known. It is hard to believe that some of the same people are a part of something that would take it away. I belive that those who are fighting this should. Would you want to wake up one day and find that you no longer have a back yard or a front yard for that matter? What are families supposed to do who have loved ones buried there? Surely to goodness people can see what a mess the TNC is creating. Yes, water does create breeding grounds for many things (ie. mold, snakes, etc). I know that I do not want my family near things like that let alone myself. Mold can kill you!!!!! Please stand behind those who live in Shady Valley and want their children to be able to live there. Shady Valley is a beautiful place and those who live there take care of the land that they have. Everyone there gives even when they do not have to give. I do not live there but, I have been there and I have seen how the people there come together when times are hard. It is time to take care of those who have worked the old fashioned way to put food on the table for their families. If you have ever seen a place where it peaceful and thought to yourself “this is what it is all about” then that is Shady Valley.

    • a "local person" says:

      What “the one” says has sat here for over 2 years without being corrected. Unfortunately most of what is said is not true, and people are not willing to make a few phone calls to find out facts, but prefer the soap-opera myths that are spread around. The people who call themselves a Watershed District organization are not legally classified as a government entity in that capacity. They are not the same organization that was formed in the 1960’s and ended in the 80’s. they do not have any legal right to tell anyone what to do on their land, and have no right to enforce easements that ended when the enforcing agency ended in the 80’s. They certainly do not represent all of the people of Shady Valley. There is no lake in Shady Valley, no front yards, back yards, or cemeteries are threatened. No one’s livelihood is being threatened. Neither mold, venomous snakes nor mosquitoes breed in a healthy wetland-as the Tennessee Health Dept experts have verified on TNC property. It is not a stagnant swamp or holding pond but rather has moving fresh water, filters pollutants out of the water, improves the water quality in Beaverdam creek,reduces runoff that causes flooding, and renews the underwater aquifer from which many people of Shady Valley draw their water. The county benefits from the property taxes TNC pays, at a higher rate than the surrounding farmland. It is not a government run organization, and is rated among the top ten in the world of organizations dedicated to natural preservation for effective use of funds, and accurate application of science in managing their work. Though a private landowner like their neighbors, they open their land to hunting and fishing by permission, maintain beautiful walking paths for all to use, and have made it possible for waterfowl to return to Shady that had been absent for 30 years. Large parcels of their land are used for environmentally responsible farming, leased and operated by local farmers. Once land is dedicated to preservation, it is true that it cannot be sold and resold for real estate developers to make money with each transaction, or make housing developments or golf courses. I consider that a good thing, and my family has lived here for 3 generations. Surely to goodness any intelligent person can see that Shady Valley has been greatly blessed by the presence of TNC in the community. They work for the good of the community and mind their own business. Go visit their office and take a tour of the preserves, they will gladly tell you what projects they are working on.

  3. […] crafted to cut down on bogus complaints, which have become quite commonplace in the Shady Valley Cranberry War, which is being waged in Mumpower’s […]

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