Erin Medley has been in the park “business” for a number of years now.
She worked as a seasonal interpreter for three years while at Harrison Bay State Park and for four years, worked as a ranger at Booker T. Washington State Park in Hamilton County before coming home to Red Clay.
Medley has had somewhat of a kinship with Red Clay since she was a child, visiting the park on a school field trip to learn more about Cherokee history.
She recalls her favorite part of the trip as being inside one of the houses on the property.
“I remember the farmhouse. You could only walk through the center and weren’t allowed upstairs. The ranger at the time wouldn’t let us,” said Medley.
It became a mystery what was upstairs at the farmhouse.
“When I became ranger, the first thing I did was went upstairs at the farmhouse to see what was up there. There was nothing,” Medley said with a laugh.
She made the confession Friday after Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation deputy commissioner Brock Hill announced her as the park’s new manager.
Medley has been at Red Clay serving as the ranger since 2006.
She studied at and graduated from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga with a bachelor of science in leisure studies and joined Harrison Bay as an intern.
“I worked there three summers, then got hired as ranger in 2002 at Booker T. Washington,” Medley said.
Since then, she kept her studies up and gained the valuable knowledge any park ranger should have.
“I completed basic Police Cyclist School, basic and advanced visual tracking, communication, Spanish I and II, and received my EMT IV license from UTC,” Medley said.
After starting at Red Clay, she came up with the idea to start a garden like the Cherokee might’ve had.
“Each year I plant a 3-sisters garden to add another interpretive tool for programming during the summer months. I have also utilized the Iris Fund and had plans drawn up for a project to plant around 2 acres of native grasses and plants that the Cherokee would have readily used. I implemented a Living History component to Cherokee Days of Recognition so visitors can visualize how a Cherokee would have lived during the late 18th to early 19th century. I also had a major part in getting the Friends of Red Clay started and continue to work very closely with them,” Medley added.
She has also attended a number of other training courses which relate to the Red Clay experience and the Cherokee people who held the site as their last capitol prior to their removal to Oklahoma.
Medley works with the Trail of Tears Association, Friends of Red Clay and the Cleveland Bradley County Chamber of Commerce, and is currently working on the commemoration of 175th anniversary of the Trail of Tears.
In the future, she wants to hold a re-enactment of the last Council, have speakers from the Cherokee community to fill a history seminar series, and have a Cherokee Day Camp for kids, she said.
There are many other things on Medley’s “to-do” list.
One of the most important is to keep learning from both the Eastern Band and the Cherokee Nation, how to preserve and tell the stories of the land.
Medley said she would continue to reach out for partnerships to achieve her goals.
When she’s not working, she volunteers at the fire department near the county line in Varnell and loves music and singing as well as spending time with her family.