Preparations underway for another Spring Naturalist Rally

Published 3:34 pm Thursday, March 16, 2023

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The Friends of Roan Mountain State Park are putting the final touches on the 64th Annual Spring Naturalist Rally, which will be held April 28-30 with hikes to the Highlands of Roan and other areas outside of the park.
This year’s event will feature guest speakers Connie Deegan and Tavia Cathcart Brown. Deegan, who will speak at the Friday evening program, is a naturalist with the Johnson City Parks and Recreation Dept. and specializes in herpetology. Her program “Co-existing With Snakes” will share how snakes are an amazingly important part of the ecosystem and that many people happily coexist with snakes on their property. Deegan’s program will include a discussion on the physiology of snakes and what to do in the event of a rare mishap.
Deegan received the Tennessee Wildlife Federation Conservation Achievement Award in 2001 for Conservation Educator of the Year. She also received the 2022 Pinnacle Award for Adventure Tourism Leader.
The Saturday evening program will feature Tavia Cathcart Brown, who will speak on Flora Lora and Uses. Brown is executive director of the 170-acre Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve in Goshen, Ky., where she has established a two-acre Woodland Garden that highlights native wildflowers and ferns, along with creating multiple Certified Monarch Waystations. With Brown’s support, Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve started Kentucky’s first full-time outdoor preschool, Thrive Forest School, serving more than 350 students and campers a year.
During the pandemic, Brown created a Take a Walk with Tavia video series about plants, which may be viewed from Creasey Mahan’s website or YouTube page. She coauthored the field guide, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley, and Southern Appalachians, which covers 16 states, 1,250 wildflowers, and presents 800 photographs. A highly regarded lecturer, educator, writer and photographer, Brown shares her love of plants and pollinators at every opportunity, giving presentations to regional and national groups.
For her program, Brown will present vivid examples of how Native Americans and early pioneers used plants as medicinal aids. She will also share myths, legends, and lore spotlighting wildflowers that were revered and sometimes feared.
Saturday’s schedule will feature a variety of field trips, ranging from birds to wildflowers. Events will also include hikes to Jones Falls and Hampton Creek Cove as well as a flint knapping demonstration, a nature slide show by Tracy Campbell, and a program on native orchids to North America and nearby by Mary Ruden.
The Sunday program will feature a sunrise hike led by Connie Deegan to Round Ball at 5:45 a.m.; a field trip to Laurel Falls and various other field trips.
Rally directors are Gary Barrigar and Larry McDaniel. Registration for the weekend can be done online at

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