Pay it Forward

The Greenway – a Macon County treasure

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Rita St. Clair

For the last 25 years, the history and development of the Little Tennessee Greenway and Friends of the Greenway (FROG) have been closely intertwined. In 1990, area outdoor and environmental enthusiasts envisioned a hiking path along the Little Tennessee River. A plan by Duke Power to run new power lines along the river helped turn this vision into a reality. 

From those early days, Friends of the Greenway was an enthusiastic and knowledgeable group committed to making the Greenway happen. In 2001, then-County Manager Sam Greenwood turned over management of the Greenway to Friends of the Greenway. Members became involved in work already in progress, bridge plans, and reviewing sources of grant funding. 

THE KAY Coriell Butterfly Garden was established in 2006.

By March 2002, FROG had become incorporated. Shortly after, they had established a website (, a logo, by-laws, and a mission statement. Many local citizens were involved, but primary responsibility for obtaining the millions needed for funding was placed in the capable hands of members Kathy McGaha, Barbara McRae, and Hank Shuler. Other responsibilities taken on by FROG included identifying the 80 property owners adjacent to the proposed Greenway, researching playground components, designing shelters, proposing bathroom locations, and identifying landscaping and plantings. 

In order to facilitate members’ day-to-day involvement, in 2004, FROG took over renovations of the old Water Wheel Restaurant, located at 573 E. Main Street — a county-owned, abandoned building, offered by Greenwood with approval by the Macon County Commissioners. This location enabled a daily presence on the Greenway and continues to be the home of FROG and the Greenway Visitor Center. 

SCENIC BRIDGES dot the landscape of the nearly five-mile trail.

With FROG Quarters as our center, Friends of the Greenway remains committed to community involvement, sharing the history of the land, and enhancing a natural playground enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. Community involvement on the Greenway is evident in many ways, beginning with hundreds of volunteer hours. FROG members share their skills, materials, and financial donations. FROG supports youth community service activities, which include Greenway cleanup, monitoring nesting boxes, and painting tasks. Volunteers coordinate Greenway memorial bench and table donations by families to honor loved ones. FROG provides a satellite office for the Franklin Police Department and houses their bicycles for ready access to patrol the Greenway. 

Additionally, volunteers at Frog Quarters/Greenway Visitor Center are an information resource for the trail and offer a warm welcome to Appalachian Trail hikers, visitors, and locals alike. 

Evidence of the long history of the land surrounding the Greenway and FROG Quarters continues to unfold along the trail. Friends of the Greenway established the American Hops project, supported the Barbara McRae Heritage Orchard, provides information signage along the trail, and promotes the lasting influence of the Cherokee Nation through area names. 

Enhancing the Greenway is an essential part of the FROG mission. Members designed a Greenway logo, replaced Greenway mile markers, designed and added informational and educational signage, and revived the Kay Coriell Butterfly Garden/Monarch Way Station. Most recently, through a joint project with the Franklin Bird Club, volunteers designed, planned, and constructed the Barbara McRae Memorial Viewing Platform overlooking the wetlands at Big Bear Park. 

For almost 20 years, a small building on the Greenway has housed and nurtured a community of environmental and conservation caregivers, creating a unique place and opportunity for our entire community to be involved in protecting and enriching a Macon County treasure. 

Looking for FROG activities? Visit Frog Quarters on Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., for Midday Music, where local musicians showcase their talent with live entertainment. Volunteer to help with Greenway maintenance, particularly invasive plant removal. Take a bird walk with the Franklin Bird Club. Join our “Mommy & Me” walking group for mothers with babies and young children. Bring your class or homeschool group for a Greenway hike. Donate children’s books and nature books for adults to our Little Free Library. Spend time volunteering at the Visitor Center and Frog Quarters coffee and gift shop. Help maintain the Kay Coriell Butterfly Garden and the native plant landscape at Frog Quarters. Join Friends of the Greenway at Frog Fair, our arts and crafts fair, held each year in May and October; we are looking for artisan vendors, event planners, and essential volunteers on fair day. Become a FROG board member and help guide the organization into the future.

FROG QUARTERS is located at 573 E. Main Street.

For information on joining FROG, volunteering, or donating, send an email to [email protected], visit our website at, or stop by 573 E. Main Street, Wednesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. We look forward to you joining our stewardship of the Little Tennessee River Greenway.

Rita St. Clair is a member of the FROG Board Executive Committee.