Friends of Henry Horton golf tournament vital to park’s conservation

Friday, June 9, 2017
The Buford Ellington Golf Course inside Henry Horton State Park has been the home site of the Friends of Henry Horton Golf Tournament for all eight years.
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

In January of 2006, three concerned citizens embarked on a mission to help the conservation efforts at Henry Horton State Park and since that time, the Friends of Henry Horton (FOHH) group, backed by the spirit of Tennessee volunteerism have achieved projects beyond their wildest dreams.

“It is hard to believe that we started out with three people and now we have a great turnout for meetings and great participation at all of our events and we are constantly amazed at how the community wants to be involved,” FOHH president Stacey Cothran said.

The FOHH Golf Tournament, which raised almost $8,000 last year and has been the group’s biggest fundraiser will tee it up for the eighth consecutive year on Friday, June 23 at 1 p.m.

“One of the great parts of our tournament is that every year it seems like everyone has a great time (except for the summer when it was 110 degrees and it was still fun),” Cothran said. “We are all there to participate and make our Henry Horton State Park the greatest park in the state of Tennessee for everyone to enjoy and helping with our annual golf tournament creates opportunities for our Friends Group to help the park achieve that success.”

The four-man scramble, shotgun start at the Buford Ellington Golf Course inside the park has always had great participation and since the resurfacing of the greens took place, the challenge to win the first place spot has become even more difficult.

The 491-yard par 5 15th hole at Henry Horton has become quite a challenge after the reconstruction of the green that has several levels to negotiate.

“The Buford Ellington Golf Course has always been a challenge, but since the new greens were replaced with Bermuda grass and they were redesigned (15 is such a hard hole), it has created a new dynamic to test your skills,” Cothran said.

The park has overcome many obstacles over the years and recently the state’s decision to tear down the Inn was fought and ultimately overturned through a concerted effort by the citizens and local politicians.

“The Inn has so many memories for people in our community that it would have been very sad to have lost it,” Cothran said.

In early May, the Tennessee General Assembly fully funded the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s $10.05 million capital expenditure request for the park.

“Henry Horton State Park was thrilled to have $10,050,000 placed in the Tennessee State Budget for improvements at the park,” Cothran said. “We were very pleased that TDEC decided to not tear down the Inn and utilize the money that they were going to use to demolish it, to remodel it.”

One of the biggest projects undertaken by the FOHH is the ongoing effort to recreate the Wilhoite Mill on the Duck River and more good news was received when the Duck River Agency recently donated $350,000 towards the plan.

The conservation of land and wildlife, plus teaching others about the natural resources of Henry Horton State Park and the Duck River is the ongoing mission of the Friends of Henry Horton.

The historic grist mill will serve as a museum to tell the story of Henry Horton State Park and will also be a visitor’s center and educational and interpretive center.

“The Wilhoite Mill was the center of activities back in the 1800's to the middle of the 1900's and we know that it will be an educational showplace for the area and most importantly to teach people more about the Duck River, which is one of the most biologically diverse rivers in the world and it is right here running through our beautiful park,” Cothran said.

The FOHH has many other projects they are working on including a Green House and the wetlands area project that was boosted by a $10,000 donation by GM/Spring Hill that went towards the construction of an observation deck overlooking the area.

“Our Green House is taking shape and our former Park Manager Randy Whitworth is leading the charge to grow as much as possible,” Cothran said. “And if you have not hiked to the wetlands area yet, you should make plans to do so, the chorus of frogs is magical.”

A compost project that has teamed with the Town of Chapel Hill to provide them with a chipper to use to chop all their tree limbs and yard waste as opposed to sending it to the landfill has been a huge success, diverting 120 tons of waste from the county landfill in its first year.

The FOHH is currently building an aviary for all our feathered friends to live in and the community garden and farm to table garden at the Park continue to produce quality vegetables.

“We are expanding our Duck River Education Program and teaming with the Duck River Agency this year,” Cothran said. “Our focus is to educate all the fifth-graders in Marshall and Bedford County about how to protect our beautiful river. Ultimately, we want to include fifth-graders from not only Marshall and Bedford County but also, Coffee, Maury and Hickman counties.”

The program, started in 2011 is an experiential curriculum designed to educate and engage students and citizens about watershed issues, the value of parks and recreation, and how today’s youth can positively impact communities. A collaborative effort between the Friends of Henry Horton State Park and the Tennessee Environmental Council, the project involves hands-on biodiversity training, as well as opportunities to better understand our role as active citizens to better the environment, economy and quality of life.

The 18th green sits below the clubhouse at the par 72, 6,604-yard Buford Ellington Golf Course.

How to help: If you are interested in helping any of these great causes, including playing in the FOHH Golf Tournament, contact: Teresa Dugger teresa.dugger@vanderbilt.edu 931-619-8590,

Stacey Cothran scothran@wm.com 615-202-3585, Leanne Higdon lhigdon37091@hotmail.com 931-580-1995 or the Henry Horton Park Office at (931) 364-7725.