Our Story

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It all started when...

Dr. Jonathan Oppenheimer recalls:

" When it was time to leave the small rented apartment that had become my cave while suffering through a painful divorce. I contacted a realtor to find a happier location where I might lick my wounds - someplace with water nearby.  After visiting a few gated communities with swimming pools and manicured ponds, nothing seemed fitting. Would I consider someplace in the country? Sure, especially if there was water running through it.  So I the realtor drove me from charming Franklin, past verdant farms along a narrow country road that snaked up, up into the forest. Several minutes later we had ascended Backbone Ridge and crossed the Natchez Trace. Then a slow, winding descent into the Big East Fork Valley, the forest embracing, a welcoming long arcade of trees.  More light filters through. The road straightens. Blue sky vaults upward. The valley opens. I feel joyous opening in my chest.    

Is it possible I might live here ???  We pull up next to an old barn and next I am sitting on a weathered wooded bench next to a small waterfall.  Over the steady gurgling of water, the call of a red-tailed hawk lets me know of my intrusion upon his domain.  I am in love again."


          The youngest of three sons born of Jewish refugees from Hitler's Germany, Jonathan Oppenheimer was raised on Long Island, New York. A National Merit Scholar, he received his BS in Biomedical Sciences, his MD at the University of Michigan, and then specialized in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Rochester. He became an expert in prostate cancer at Johns Hopkins University, then founded and directed the world's first private national urologic laboratory. Eighteen year later, after living on Big East Fork Road, he sold his lab to a wealthy investor who asked him to  help run a billion dollar multi-national diagnostic and pharmaceutical corporation. The stock-price doubled. But corporate life at a publicly traded company was never what Jonathan had in mind. It was time to start a new chapter.

          At Big East Fork, Dr. Oppenheimer experienced how such a beautiful space could offer respite from the hustle of everyday life, reconnect with nature, and be a part of a larger community committed to conservation and sustainability. In his own words, he wanted to create a space that would, "Preserve the natural jewel of Big East Fork." The property, which is located in Franklin, TN (Williamson County), lies directly in the path of the most rapidly growing areas of Tennessee and the United States.

          Upon moving to Big East Fork in 2005, Jonathan bought several adjacent properties to protect two major portions of the valley. He then sold his laboratory in 2012 and focused his efforts on protecting the Big East Fork Valley. In 2013, the vision became a reality when he donated  1,363 acres of old growth wooded habitat as a conservation easement to the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation (TENN Green), a state-wide non-profit land trust. Along with forested areas, the property backs to the historic Natchez Trace Parkway, connects a trail network at Williamson County's Timberland Park, and contains over 9,000 linear feet of streams that drain into the South Harpeth River. The conservation easement provides a refuge for wildlife, protects biodiversity in perpetuity, and guarantees the preservation of this sacred space.

         In 2015, the non-profit Center for Sustainable Stewardship was founded at Big East Fork, to assist groups and individuals manifest their positive intentions. Additional land was purchased in 2016, creating a protected space of over 2000 acres. In 2018, CSS entered into a long-term agreement to lease and operate Big East Fork Retreat. It is from this beginning, that with your efforts and generous support, we have the opportunity to build a legacy for our generation and for generations to come.


          The Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation (TennGreen) holds the conservation easement protecting much of the forest and waters of the Big East Fork Valley.  TennGreen is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1998 and has a mission to conserve Tennessee's natural treasures.  TennGreen completes this mission through voluntary private conservation easements as well as conserving land for public access.  For more information, visit their website at www.tenngreen.org or call 615-329-4441.


We look forward to hosting you! BUT before you reserve a you Lodging or Event Space, you must read the House Rules. Only after you read them should you print them and sign them. Take a photo of the signed House Rules and sent to: info AT cssfamily.org (Replace AT with @).

If you do not understand, agree, and are willing to sign the House Rules, please, please do not reserve a Lodging or Event Space.

Thank you very much.

The Center for Sustainable Stewardship protects and preserves the Big East Fork Valley for future generations. All of our guests are encouraged to support our Sustainable (recycling) and Regenerative (soil building) efforts by using the recycling and composting bins provided.

Heat (in cold months): We attempt to wisely steward our valuable fossils fuels. Our accommodations are heated with 500 to 1000 gallon propane tanks. At $2.50/gallon, $2500 of fuel may be present in your lodging. You have been allotted 20 gallons ($50) for each day of your stay. Exceeding this amount will incur an extra charge that will be deducted from your deposit. We want our guests to be comfortable yet conscious of the resources they expend. Try to keep thermostats set at 68 degrees and dress for the season. Keep windows and doors closed when heat is on and lower heat when the house is not occupied. Inform staff of drafts or any malfunctioning equipment. Help us keep our energy usage (and cost to our guests) sustainable! 

Cool (in warm months): When air conditioning units are operating, please keep windows and doors closed. Do not set temperature lower than 70 degrees. Electricity costs in excess of $50 per day will be paid by guest. Help us keep our energy usage (and cost to our guests) sustainable! 

Kitchen: Sinks drain to our beloved septic tanks. Do NOT pour grease or animal fat down our drains, but pour them into glass containers (please pour over sink to prevent mess). Wipe used skillets/griddles with disposable paper towels to remove grease/fat before washing them in sinks. Let us know when the glass containers are full so we can appropriately recycle or compost. 

Recycle: Separate metal and glass. Fold cardboard boxes so they are flat. Try to keep your volume of trash low. We have to transport non- compostables to the county landfill at our expense. Please be kind to the earth and to our staff. :)  

Compost: Place organic matter suitable for composting in the black bucket provided under the sink. We encourage our guests to collect non-toxic organic waste so it can be composted to soil and used in our gardens. Please don’t place trash outside of bins on the property making it accessible to hungry critters.

House rules: 

  Our rules are designed to make your stay safe while maximizing your group’s freedom, but also to foster the sustainability of our services and our ability to provide access to our amazing valley at affordable prices. Violating the house rules may be costly and rather inconvenient. And do let us know as soon as possible if something is broken, unsafe, or may be improved in any way. Enjoy your stay at the Fork! 

All lodging guests must pay Tennessee state (9.5%) and Williamson county (4%) short-term rental taxes. The public servants who pave our roads and  who protect and serve us, appreciate your support.  

 A government-issued photo ID must be shown or sent to the owner or designee prior to check-in. Check-in must performed by the person making the reservation. If this person is not available or will arrive later, contact management prior to check-in to discuss alternate arrangements.  

 ***Only the number of guests registered may be on premises***. Exceptions only with documented permission of management (Additional fees and guest list are required for events including, any attendants required to assist with your needs and our stewardship program: recycling, composting). Unregistered guests are *trespassing* and may be prosecuted, so please do not invited them on premises without the management’s permission. External surveillance monitor(s) help safeguard our guests and compliance with our house rules.  

Any guest exhibiting unsafe or safe or disrespectful behaviour will be asked to leave.

Guests are responsible for cleaning grills and ovens if they are made greasy/dirty. Excess trash, messes requiring extra cleaning, or not leaving furniture/carpets in their places may result in a portion of your security deposit being withheld. Don’t place trash outside of bins (making it accessible to hungry critters).

No pets. No indoor smoking. No weapons (except with owner’s permission). No disorderly conduct. Use of confetti, candles, use of fireplaces and outside fire pits, collecting firewood, or moving of furniture are strictly prohibited without written permission of management. No underage drinking of alcohol. Music audible from outside of houses must end by 1am. Bachelor(ette) and other high risk parties require pre-approval, additional (fully-refundable) cash deposits, and/or event insurance.

Refund Policy for cancelations:

For a 75% refund of fees, cancellation must be made five full days prior to listing’s local check in time (or 3:00 PM if not specified) on the day of check in.

If the guest cancels less than 5 days in advance, the first two nights are non-refundable but 50% of the accommodation fees for remaining nights will be refunded.

If the guest arrives and decides to leave early, 50% of the accommodation fees for the nights not spent 24 hours after the cancellation occurs are refunded.

Your stay at Fork Inn Lodging does not include access to the nearby properties operated by the non-profit Center for Sustainable Stewardship (Big East Fork Retreat, Farm, Lake Gratitude, and Hiking Trails). Please contact info@cssfamily.org (www.cssfamily.org) for day passes and event space rentals at CSS. 

House Suggestions: 

Please place non-toxic organic waste (food scraps, coffee grounds, in sealed black containers provided for composting.  

All (non-compostable) trash must be transported to the county landfill by our staff. You can help by not bringing excess packaging materials which must be disposed of. You can be Stewards of Big East Fork by taking as much of your trash with you when you leave. You are encouraged to leave usable food and spirits behind for our hungry (and thirsty) staff!


And Please Enjoy our Amazing Valley!

I have read and agree to the House Rules

Name ______________________________________

Signature _________________________________ Date _____________


CSS newest Project may be creating a natural Bridge over the Wall, a physical manifestation of our intent to build bridges while maintaining natural boundaries (security). We can demonstrate how walls can be beautiful and provide security at the same time as they are essential to diversity. Natural bridges can be used to naturalize citizens, helping citizens learn the laws of the land.

Discussions and dialog concerning the purpose, design, and execution of the Project could be recorded in episodes and submitted to the Williamson County Arts Commission for the 2019 County Fair. Possible creation of a movie for distribution over social networks and phone-based channels (vimeo, utube, etc).

CSS proposes to engage the community and requests proposals and your designs for various types of Walls and Bridges.

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