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KNOXVILLE — Following two years of research, design and construction by members of the College of Architecture and Design and the School of Art, the Bill Catron Observation Deck at Panther Creek State Park in Morristown, Tenn., will be dedicated and presented to the public. The ribbon-cutting ceremony begins at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26.

The history of the Panther Creek State Park site has evolved over the years from Cherokee hunting grounds to mill town to state park. Friends of Panther Creek State Park, a nonprofit organization established to protect and preserve the park, wanted a scenic overlook. The faculty and students designed not only a functional platform but also an artistic interpretation of the park’s evolution.

Under the direction of architecture professors Robert French, Tricia Stuth and Ted Shelton, students constructed prefabricated panels, the wooden sections that make up the platform. Weekly travel to the park site for construction was not feasible, so the panels were built in sections in the atrium of the Art + Architecture Building, then disassembled and moved to the park in late April. Beginning in early May, students, faculty and the Friends group re-assembled the prefabricated sections of the platform at the site.

The platform incorporates educational panels that interpret the area’s cultural, physical and temporal landscape. UT graphic design professor Sarah Lowe coordinated the design of the panels in collaboration with Stuth and park administrators, and UT sculpture student Ronda Wright fabricated the metalwork.

Other participants in the project include architecture students Michael Davis, Mikey Kenney, Craig Reschke, Keith Percic, David Scott, Dale Brackeen, John Reed, Eric Reed, Michael Ellis, Kirby Sexton, Travis Brooks, Sam Hendricks, Jason Saneford, Daniel Luster, Joe Watson and Daley Womack; graphic design student Staci Rowlison; and Steve Chandler, construction and woodshop adviser for the College of Architecture and Design.

Named the Bill Catron Observation Deck after a member of the Friends who passed away, the 687-square-foot platform will give visitors to the park a scenic view of Cherokee Lake and the surrounding mountains.

The platform is installed below road level so that it will not impede views of the lake and mountains for those approaching by car or on foot. Its three-tiered configuration staggers down the bluff, allowing clear views when seated or standing and providing an accessible route for all park visitors.

French, Stuth and Shelton and their students now are undertaking the renovation of the Panther Creek State Park Visitors Center, including an addition of public restroom facilities. Students this fall, under the direction of Shelton, are researching the design’s environmental agenda, including pursuit of LEED certification, a U.S. Green Building Council program to promote sustainable design. Students will complete design and begin construction at the Art + Architecture Building in January 2009 under the direction of Stuth and French.

Funding for platform materials was provided by the Friends group, including a $25,000 grant and community fundraising, with the university faculty and students supplying the labor in kind. Funding for the Visitors Center renovation project is supported in part by the Tennessee State Parks system, and the Friends group continues to raise funds to meet project costs.

Additional support was provided by a UT Professional Development Award of $3,100. Towe Ironworks, Cherokee Porcelain and Mallia Engineering also provided services.

For more information on the Bill Catron Observation Deck, including directions to the platform site, visit

Tricia Stuth, architecture professor, (215) 266-2631,

Kristi Hintz, UT media relations, (865) 974-3993,