If you haven’t been to one of the Roan Mountain Spring Naturalists Rally in a few years, you might be surprised at how this annual event has expanded its focus.
“Originally the rallies focused on only birds and wildflowers,” said James Neves, who serves with Jennifer Bauer as co-director for the spring rally. “Over the last decade we’ve added topics like nature photography, salamanders, moths and dragonflies. We also have made an effort to reach a broader audience by designating some of our field trips as kid friendly, and we also offer field trips for those with physical limitations.”
Neves credits much of the success for the long-running spring rallies — this year marks the 55th anniversary of the annual event — to an excellent group of longtime volunteers who lead the field trips.
“In most cases, the volunteers have the ideas on something new to add,” Neves said. “Often they will they want to lead a field trip in a new location, or they will develop a new interest they would like to share with our attendees. It’s very exciting when they bring our attention to someone else willing to volunteer their time who brings a great deal of experience in a topic we haven’t been able to offer before.”
This year’s rally will continue the tradition of offering nature enthusiasts the opportunity to enjoy field trips and engaging programs that cover many aspects of the natural history of Roan Mountain and the surrounding area. Past participants will notice a few new field trips mixed in with the perennial favorites.
Evening programs and the lunch-time workshops will take place in Roan Mountain State Park’s Conference Center, and field trips will leave from the field on the left before the cabins in the park.
Because of the continued support of the Friends of Roan Mountain, the rallies have the resources they need to prosper and grow.
Neves said the organization also provides support for research and restoration projects on the Roan and encourages anyone who is not currently a member to consider joining FORM.
Members receive free admission to all events and receive the organization’s newsletter, “Friends of Roan Mountain.”
Neves said he is excited about this year’s evening programs.
“Both of our speakers will be presenting at the rally for the first time, and both women will bring a lot of passion and experience to their presentations,” he said.
Tavia P. Cathcart is the speaker scheduled for Friday, May 3. She will present a program on “The Wonders of Wildflowers” at 7:30 p.m. Cathcart serves as the executive director for the Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve in Goshen, Ky. An educator, presenter, writer and photographer, she co-authored and was lead photographer for the book, Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, which was a 2011 Gold Nautilus Book Award winner. She also co-authored the 16-state field guide, “Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and Southern Appalachians,” a book that highlights her specialty of sharing “flora-lore,” mythology and medicinal uses of plants.
Her accomplishments have been recognized by Women of Leadership and Today’s Woman, and she serves on the board of directors for the Louisville Audubon Society. Her program on Friday evening will take her audience on an entertaining journey into the lore and uses of native plants.
Lisa Powers will present “Eye of the Newt and Toe of the Frog: Tennessee’s Spellbinding Amphibians” as the evening program at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 4.
Powers is an award-winning nature photographer, writer and herpetologist. Her photos can be found in the Tennessee Conservationist Magazine, Tennessee Wildlife Magazine, Salamanders of the Southeast (University of Georgia Press), and in nature centers and on multiple online resources. Watch out for the upcoming “Reptiles of Tennessee” (University of Tennessee Press in the near future. She has presented at the International Herpetology Sympsium and is an active member and blogger for the Center for Snake Conservation.
Her presentation will uncover the mysteries of Tennessee’s amphibians. There are 21 different species of frogs and 56 (or more) species of salamanders in Tennessee, which makes the Volunteer State a great place to observe these spellbinding creatures.
Some new field trips are planned on Saturday, including a five-mile hike following the Over Mountain Victory Trail led by Nora Shubert.
Neves will be leading a field trip focusing exclusively on dragonflies and damselflies.
Neves and Bauer have divided their respective responsibilities for organizing the spring rallies.
“My primary responsibility is coordinating the field trips, while she focuses on inviting our speakers and working with Roan Mountain State Park,” Neves said.
Both the Friday and Saturday evening programs will be preceded by meals catered by City Market of Elizabethton.
The Friday meal will consist of grilled or breaded chicken, vegetable selection, salad, bread, dessert and drink for $9 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under.
The Saturday meal will consist of roast pork or lasagna, vegetable selection, salad, bread, dessert and drink. Cost is the same as for the Friday meal.
In addition, bag lunches are available on Saturday at noon by pre-paid reservation only. These lunches consist of a choice of sandwich, chips, cookie and a drink for $6.
Pre-paid meal reservations are required and must be received by Tuesday, April 30.
For more information on the rally, call Bauer at 772-4772 or 543-5808, email her at email@example.com or call Neves at (706) 224-3355 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information, including a complete schedule of events, is also available at www.friendsofroanmtn.org.