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Now Back in Print, This Book Tells the Story of Chattanooga’s First Wildlife Sanctuary


When Gwen Douglas Hester first met Robert Sparks Walker, a notable Chattanooga author and naturalist, she had no idea who he was.

“I just thought he was this guy,” Hester says, “that was crazy about birds and flowers and knew more than anybody I’d ever heard talk about them.”

Of course, she can’t be blamed for not realizing his significance at the time—because she was only a small child back then. She and other children met Walker while hiking through Audubon Acres, the area that used to be his family’s farm, and became the city’s first wildlife sanctuary.

“When I was five, six, and seven,” she says, “my grandmother’s Sunday school class was going there, and she would take children our age.”

Today, Hester is a board member of the Chattanooga Audubon Society—the organization Walker founded. They’re celebrating a literary event: local printing company WonderPress has re-printed Walker’s 1955 book As the Indians Left It: The Story of the Chattanooga Audubon Society and Its Elise Chapin Wildlife Sanctuary.

The book is both Walker’s autobiography and a recounting of local history—“It’s an odd mix of the two,” says Society President Ray Zimmerman. He hopes the book will get more people involved with the nonprofit and their events.

“I want it to be a centerpiece for our mission to the community to let more folks involved with the natural world and I’m hoping that it motivates people to come out and join us.”