State of Tenn. purchases Virgin Falls

SPARTA, Tenn. (AP) -- An iconic Tennessee waterfall now belongs to the state.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation purchased Virgin Falls State Natural Area using both public funding and private contributions. The 1,551-acre tract in White County that contains Virgin Falls had been privately owned since the 1970s, though the state had leased it.

State officials said the change means more protection for Virgin Falls against development and assures that public access won't be denied.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave $1.5 million toward the purchase of the land, which is about 20 miles south of Sparta.

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