RIDGETOP STATION PARK ARBORETUM PROJECT

The Ridgetop Station Park Arboretum is located on the edge of the Highland Rim in south Robertson County, Tennessee. The 26-acre park encompasses woodlands, fields, an old orchard, a 19-century antebellum-styled house with lawns and gardens, and period outbuildings. The house, called the Wilson House in honor of the last private owners from whom the City of Ridgetop acquired the property, contains the Ridgetop museum that includes local historical items and pictures of the construction of the railroad tunnel under Ridgetop. Playground equipment, volleyball courts, picnic tables, and shelters are in the park. A paved walking trail and paths crisscross the park.

Ridgetop Station Park is located in the city of Ridgetop on State Hwy 257 less than one mile from Highway 41, a major transportation artery in North Davidson/South Robertson Counties. The park has parking facilities as well as handicapped accessible restrooms and trails. The park grounds are open year-around from dawn to dusk.

Bisected by the L&N Railroad, Ridgetop was settled in the early-mid-19th century by farmers and tradesmen attracted by the woodlands, rich farmlands, and good climate of middle Tennessee. Ridgetop became a resort community in the late 19th-early 20th century for several wealthy Nashville families seeking seasonal respite from Nashville heat and humidity at the higher elevation. Many of the original summer cottages and homes such as the Wilson House and the inter-denominational Highland Chapel are near the park. From 1902 to 1905, the railroad constructed a tunnel under Ridgetop to alleviate the steep grade of the Highland Rim south of Ridgetop. The 4,621 foot free standing tunnel continues to accommodate busy CSX rail traffic. The parkland successively was owned and improved by the Morris, Woodruff, Wolfe, and Wilson families. It was purchased by the city of Ridgetop in 2005 from Marseille Wilson.

The park walking trail winds through large sugar maple, hickory, oak, and tulip poplar trees that are a prominent feature of the park. The trail passes by the orchard, located on a part of the property that once was part of a large orchard supplying fruit to the Watauga Sanitarium and Seventh Day Adventist Schools. Other species including fig, ginkgo, Chinese chestnut, and paw paw trees are near the historic house and outbuildings and the raised perennial garden maintained by the Ridgetop Garden Club and Robertson County Master Gardeners.

In early 2012, the Ridgetop Garden Club and Robertson County Master Gardeners decided to label park trees for the educational benefit of the users of the walking trail and of school children in the area. Encouraged and funded by the Ridgetop Park Board and City Council Ridgetop, members contacted Dwight Barnett, the Tennessee State Forester for Robertson County, to make a survey of the park trees. Forester Barnett assisted in identifying and listing over 35 unique tree species, inspected and marked potential tree hazards, and suggested to the survey participants (Ridgetop Garden Club and Robertson County Master Gardeners) that they pursue a Level 1-Arboretum certification.

A Fall 2012 training class for park personnel will include best practices for tree maintenance and planting and recommended species for the Highland Rim environment. Master Gardeners, Ridgetop Garden Club members, and the Ridgetop community are encouraged to attend the training class. In the spring of 2010, a joint Robertson County Master Gardener/Ridgetop Garden Club hands-on pruning class was held in the park orchard; we anticipate using this venue for future classes/demonstrations. As well as being home to the Ridgetop Historical Society that sponsor several community events, the Ridgetop Station Park is an active Robertson County Master Gardner Project as well as a Ridgetop Garden Club and community resource.

As there are no other arboretums (or parks with tree labels) in Robertson County or North Davidson County, the Ridgetop Station Park arboretum is a natural resource for school children and for the community. There are two elementary schools within a 1.5- mile of the Park. The local Boy Scout troop assisted in attaching the tree labels and will continue to do service projects in the park/arboretum. Community interest and buy-in to the arboretum are promoted by memorial gifts plantings of approved tree species at designated locations on the park grounds in concert with Ridgetop Park planning/maintenance personnel.

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