The recent and by far the worst flood in the history of my hometown, Nashville, also took a swing at Radnor Lake, which is situated just a few minutes outside the center of town. From May 1 to May 3 2010 between ten and twenty inches of rain fell. The Army Corps of Engineers has described the Nashville flood as a “1000-year flood event,” which, judging from this widely seen Slideshow, seems accurate to me. Material losses were in the billions. Thirty-one people died in Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi; two of which were close friends of my parents.
In September when I was in Nashville after my trip to Scotland and Ireland with my father, I was amazed to find the city going about its business as if nothing had happened. It’s hard to see the effects of the flood unless you look very closely. You have to go inside the houses to see the cracks in the walls and foundations. Or you can go for a walk.
Since we’d been walking for two weeks, my father and I decided we’d keep it up and have a walk around Radnor Lake, Tennessee’s “first natural area and protected eco-system.” For those of you who are not familiar with Nashville’s gem, Radnor Lake is on Otter Creek Road accessible from Franklin Road. or Granny White Pike. Drive slowly: Radnor Lake is a natural area teeming with wildlife.
Otter Creek Road crumbled into the lake during the flood and the severe storms that followed. It was closed for months afterward, but it is now open to walkers and runners. When I was there, a representative from FEMA was there discussing plans to save Otter Creek Road with a ranger, which attracted the attention of walkers (myself included). At one point the ranger turned to the group and said, “We’re going to save every tree we can.” There was a weird sigh of relief, like a group of relatives had heard a loved one would pull through after all.
People who walk at Radnor Lake (and that’s me whenever I’m in Nashville) are wildly protective of their gem. Nashville almost lost this sanctuary a couple of times. The L&N Railroad company might have hunted and fished it to death, but in 1923, at the urgings of the Tennessee Ornithological Society, an "elightened" executive from L&N declared the site a “Wildlife Sanctuary,” which put an end to hunting and fishing at Radnor Lake. In 1962, a construction company bought the land and intended to develop it. Thanks to the efforts of conservationists and political leaders, 747 acres were preserved. In 1973 Radnor Lake became Tennessee’s first natural area and protected eco-system.
From 1946 to 1979, a colorful lady nicknamed Mrs. Mac protected Radnor Lake officially as its caretaker. I think her spirit lives on in the thousands of people who protect the lake so fiercely. Hundreds of volunteers have helped to rebuild trails, but more needs to be done to repair the park. It’s going to take years.
The Friends of Radnor Lake together with The Chestnut Group are hosting the Love the Lake Art Show November 5-7. If you’re in Nashville, please attend. If you’ve never been to Radnor Lake, why not use this opportunity to check it out? And say hello to this big fella for me. He's a survivor.
I must be off,
Christopher Allen is the author of the flash fiction collection Other Household Toxins.