Land in the Hiwassee Reserve is creating a new set of opportunities for Tennessee Wesleyan College professors and students after a Chattanooga businessman donated 92 acres of land to his Alma mater to help protect the environment.
Chattanooga businessman Bill Kilbride donated the land in Dayton to serve his alma mater. Administrators said the gift came at the right time as it will help the college expand its research facilities beyond the main campus.
"What I wanted that was going to be different was for it to be a living classroom outside in environmental sciences and maybe in art, and no telling what the experts in education will come up with for the great use of this property," said Bill Kilbride, the president-elect of the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce and graduate of Tennessee Wesleyan College.
Kilbride handed the keys to the college as the land's new caretakers in May after owning the land for about 10 years, he said.
Senior art major Jordan Hart said the experience will be about making sustainable art from what's already here.
"Art now means more to me than probably anything, and to keep that creativity going is what I need," said Hart. "So, now, to have this opportunity is great."
Budding biologist Tylor Hall, a senior biology major, said his class plans to build several plots for research.
"We're just taking them back to the laboratory to study the different types of trees that are out here," said Hall, while collecting leaf samples along the Hiwassee River. He added that the space will give him and other students the chance to explore a different environment aside from the park the class usually studies. "It's a really great park, but we've been there for three or four years and we've done the entire park. It's refreshing to have a new field to come to, a new place," said Hall.
That need for new spaces spans all disciplines. Julie Jack, a professor of art, said she plans for her students to build structures that complement the environment, including bird and bat houses and rock sculptures.
"I never had that opportunity as an art student to have our own private space to come and work, and I think it will be a wonderful opportunity for students," said Jack.
Kilbride said the land is rich in history, with a background that spans 500 years.
"It goes to our intent to the institution of higher education that they have the ability to take advantage of all of that and protect it as the same time, forever," said Kilbride.
Tennessee Wesleyan administrators said they plan to keep the historically rich land as natural as possible, and they may eventually build a small outdoor retreat.By Briona Arradondo