Nashville, take care of Radnor Lake, a priceless treasure | Opinion

My husband and I decided to leave Nashville after living in the same house for 30 years. In the midst of packing for this monumental move, I took a break to return once again to the place that has long been a sacred space for me: Radnor Lake State Natural Area.

Our son was 2 years old when we moved into our home in the Caldwell Hall neighborhood. With Radnor’s east parking lot located just four miles from our front door, the park was the perfect place to explore the great outdoors with an energetic preschooler. In the years to come, many of our family’s fondest Nashville-based memories would be forged within the park’s borders.

In those early days, vehicles were still permitted along the lake’s southern shoreline. One night after attending a comet-viewing party at Dyer Observatory, I chose to return home via Otter Creek Road. As my young son and I marveled at Comet Hale-Bopp’s reflection on the lake’s smooth surface, an owl suddenly swooped in front of the windshield, prompting me to shriek and my son to cry.

Neither of us will ever forget that dramatic nocturnal visitation.

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Ranger-led hikes created great memories

While hiking has been our primary means of exploring the park, my family has fond memories of ranger-led canoe floats on the lake.

While on the water, our perspective of the park widened. On one such adventure, paddling through duckweed at dusk, we were mesmerized by the call and response of two barred owls. Another visitation.

The sights and sounds of a ranger-led hike on New Year’s Eve also endure. Guided by the ranger’s voice, we began our trek without benefit of artificial light. The ranger assured us that our eyes would adjust to the darkness.

I can still vividly picture the long shadows cast by the astoundingly bright moonlight. At the stroke of midnight our merry band of hikers stood on Ganier Ridge, peering north toward the lights of Nashville’s skyline.

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My heart is filled with gratitude

On the trails surrounding Radnor Lake, I have found sanctuary and solace in every season of the year, in the changing seasons of my life. Grief and joy have freely comingled on this holy ground. Walking these trails has sparked my creativity and nurtured my soul. Heeding the late poet Mary Oliver’s advice to pay attention, at Radnor Lake, I have learned more about the natural world and more about myself.

As I neared the completion of my recent circumnavigation of Radnor Lake, aware that soon I would no longer have easy access to this sacred space, my heart was filled with gratitude, not grief.

I feel indebted to the citizens of Nashville whose passionate advocacy in the 1970s ensured that this property would be preserved for public use rather than developed into a subdivision.

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I am thankful for the Friends of Radnor Lake who continue to work to protect, preserve, and promote the park’s natural integrity. I am grateful to the park staff who are tasked with the challenge of protecting this 1,400-acre Class II Natural Area that welcomes over 1 million visitors annually.

While I am looking forward to exploring the parks near my new home in Asheville, a part of my heart will always remain firmly lodged at Radnor Lake State Natural Area.

One day I hope I can return to hike Radnor’s trails with my grandson. I have so many stories to share with him about my encounters with otters and owls, herons and eagles, rattlesnakes and turtles.

Radnor Lake will always be a sacred space to me. Please, Nashville, take care of this priceless treasure.

Tambi Brown Swiney is an ordained Baptist minister and freelance writer who has called the Nashville area home for more than 40 years.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Nashville, take care of Radnor Lake, a priceless treasure