The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is a diverse, dynamic department serving our state by:
- Safeguarding the health and safety of Tennessee citizens from environmental hazards;
- Protecting and improving the quality of Tennessee's land, air, and water;
- Managing the Tennessee State Parks system.
Within TDEC, the Bureau of Parks and Conservation is responsible for managing 56 state parks and 84 state natural areas encompassing approximately 200,000 acres across Tennessee - ranging from rustic natural and historic sites to resort parks with six inns, eight restaurants, four marinas, and the nine golf courses on the Tennessee Golf Trail. There are more than 200 trails that offer almost 1,200 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding opportunities on public lands. We are also responsible for conserving, protecting, and promoting the historical, natural, and archaeological heritage of Tennessee. We are pleased to support and provide assistance to local governments for local parks and recreation programs, too.
We are known for our distinctive natural settings, outstanding outdoor recreation, and quality interpretation, but there is also a strong organization and dedicated group of professionals behind Tennessee State Parks. The Bureau of Parks and Conservation is led by a Deputy Commissioner and eight directors that are professionals in parks, recreation, natural resource conservation, or management. Our leadership team is driven by a goal to optimize the natural, cultural, and outdoor recreational assets of our state and park system for the benefit of our citizens, residents, and guests. This includes creating an organizational structure and culture that emphasizes professionalism, customer service, efficiency, and excellence in the way we enable people to experience and enjoy the good nature of Tennessee.
Deputy Commissioner, Bureau of Parks & Conservation
Jim Bryson was appointed TDEC’s Deputy Commissioner for Parks and Conservation in May 2019. He came to TDEC from the company he founded in 1986 and last served as Chairman, 20/20 Research Inc., an international market research consulting, project management and technology firm based in Nashville. There he demonstrated a thoughtful leadership approach acknowledged for its outstanding employee culture and mission-driven success. From guiding the growth of his company to his service as a state senator in the Tennessee General Assembly from 2003 to 2007, Jim has been involved with a host of local projects improving our community and has been a national leader in the development of successful relief projects. Jim earned his Bachelor’s degree from Baylor University and received a Master’s in Business Administration from Vanderbilt University before founding 20/20 Research.
State Park Operations
The State Parks Operation Division oversees the operation of 56 state park units, including 6 Resort Inns, 8 Restaurants, 9 Golf Courses, 4 Marinas, 20 Cabin arrays, and 35 Campgrounds. The Chief Ranger and the Radio Communications Shop are also a part of this division.
STATE PARK OPERATIONS, DIRECTOR
Mike Robertson was named Director of State Park Operations in 2012. Mike has worked his entire professional career in Tennessee State Parks, including Reelfoot Lake, Meeman Shelby, Big Hill Pond, Bledsoe Creek, David Crockett and Tims Ford State Parks. He served as a Park Attendant, Seasonal Interpretive Recreator, Park Ranger, Park Manager and Parks Area Manager, before becoming the Director of Park Operations. Mike earned his B.S. degree in Natural Resource Management, Parks and Recreation, from the University of Tennessee at Martin.
STATE PARK OPERATIONS, AREA 1 MANAGER
Mike Dobis was named Area Manager for State Park Operations in 2018. He began working for the department in 2015 as the Park Manager at Pickwick Landing State Park. Mike brings with him extensive law enforcement experience from city and county entities and management experience from private sector. Mike has produced positive results for his park and service area while managing a variety of projects, personnel and community relationships. Mike is also a certified Facilitator with the state and teaches several subjects within the states Management and Leadership Learning Pyramid. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree from University of Tennessee, a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Bethel University, and is a graduate of Tennessee Government Management Institute.
STATE PARK OPERATIONS, AREA 2 MANAGER
Ryan Forbess was named Area Manager for State Park Operations in 2015. He has worked in the department for more than 18 years serving as a park ranger and manager. Ryan started his career as a park ranger at T.O Fuller Sate Park and has also served as a ranger at Montgomery Bell State Park. Ryan transitioned to the Resource Management division serving as a Regional Planner and then as the statewide Special Events coordinator for Tennessee State Parks. He is known for his dedication, professionalism, focus and time management skills. Ryan is a graduate of the National Association of State Park Directors' Leadership School and earned his B.S in Natural Resource Management from the University of Tennessee at Martin.
STATE PARK OPERATIONS, AREA 3 MANAGER
Chris Padgett was named Area Manager for State Park Operations in 2012. He has more than 16 years of experience in the department, including Bicentennial Capitol Mall and Tims Ford State Parks. At Tims Ford, he served as a ranger and assistant park manager before promoting park manager. Chris brings with him extensive management experience from the private sector as well, where he worked in the retail, restaurant and recreation industries. Chris has produced positive results for his park and service area while managing a variety of projects, personnel and community relationships. He earned a B.S. from Murray State University, a M.S. in recreation and leisure services at MTSU and is a graduate from the National Association of State Park Directors’ Leadership School.
STATE PARK OPERATIONS, AREA 4 MANAGER
Kenny Gragg was named Area Manager for State Park Operations in 2018. He has more than 10 years of experience with Tennessee State Parks both as a park ranger and a park manager. Kenny started his career as a SIR at Burgess Falls State Park in 2007. He was hired as a park ranger at Tims Ford State Park in 2008 and remained there until being promoted to park manager in 2013. Most recently, Kenny has been serving as park manager at Edgar Evins State Park, a position he accepted in 2017. Kenny has excelled in customer service and managing park operations throughout his career. He is a graduate of the National Association of State Park Directors' Leadership School, Green Leadership, Park Manager Technical Institute, and holds a B.S. from Tennessee Technological University in wildlife and fisheries science.
STATE PARK OPERATIONS, AREA 5 MANAGER
Kim Moore was named Area Manager in 2018. He has more than 30 years with the department, serving several seasons as a lifeguard at Montgomery Bell State Park, Seasonal Ranger at Warriors Path and Norris Dam. His past 29 years were spent at Cove Lake State Park where he served as a ranger then promoting to park manager in 2001. His years of park service have yielded positive results focused on customer service, managing park improvements and creating and maintaining community relationships. In 1994 Kim received the Tennessee State Parks Ranger of The Year Award “for outstanding service above and beyond the call of duty.” Kim earned his B.S. in Natural Resource Management from the University of Tennessee at Martin.
STATE PARK OPERATIONS, AREA 6 MANAGER
Robin Peeler was named Area Manager for State Park Operations in 2012. She has worked in the department for more than 18 years with a diverse and increasing set of responsibilities. Robin began her career as a Park Naturalist and Park Interpretive Specialist at Radnor Lake State Natural Area, then served as a Park Ranger at Pickett State Park. Robin was Park Manager for Cordell Hull Birthplace and Alvin C. York Historic Parks for seven years before promoting to Program Manager for the Division of Natural Areas in 2011. She is known for her dedication, organizational skills, extensive outreach, and effective coordination of department stakeholders. She is a certified EMT, assistant crew boss with Tennessee State Parks Fire Team, and graduate of the National Association of State Park Directors’ Leadership School. Robin is a U.S. Army veteran and earned a B.S. degree in Forestry and Wildlife from Virginia Tech.
Interpretive Programming and Education
Interpretive Programming and Education is responsible for supporting individual state parks in creating outdoor recreation opportunities and experiences through important programs such as the Junior Ranger program and placement of more than 60 summer seasonal staff that plan and implement recreation and interpretive programs and events.
Administrative Services provides professional, high quality and efficient support services at individual and regional park locations in order to meet the dynamic needs of the state park system and the department’s conservation and natural resource sites.
Land and Facilities Management
Land and Facilities Management include the major maintenance budget for state park buildings and administer 3 regional offices. This section receives annual appropriations for major maintenance and a non-recurring annual appropriation for capitol maintenance and outlay. Within this division, the land program is responsible for the acquisition of priority conservation lands and for dealing with boundary issues and easements and GIS system.
Marketing and Product Development
Marketing and Product Development oversee the branding and marketing effort for Tennessee State Parks, while leveraging the uniqueness of each individual state park property. They also develop of our gift shop assortments, promote group sales, and develop events and tours along with marketing plans to support them. Their goal is to promote and offer our guests authentic adventures, exceptional outdoor encounters, and create memorable experiences for everyone who visits Tennessee State Parks.
The Tennessee Golf Trail features nine courses at Tennessee State Parks: six Traditional courses and three Jack Nicklaus designed Bear Trace signature courses.
GOLF OPERATIONS, DIRECTOR
Mike Nixon was named Golf Operations Director in 2012 and works with the Head Golf Professionals and Superintendents on the Tennessee Golf Trail to support marketing efforts that increase play, oversee construction projects, and improve the golf experience at our state park courses. Mike has years of experience in the golf industry and the real estate construction and development world, as well as being the driving force behind the electric initiatives on the Tennessee Golf Trail. Having almost all of the maintenance equipment at the Bear Trace at Harrison Bay and all of the greens mowers at our other eight golf courses converted to electric power, has made an environmental difference across the TGT. Last year, Tennessee State Parks received a Transportation Forum Award for his conversion of 428 gasoline powered golf carts to electric power. Mike has been a PGA tour player and won more than 50 tournaments at various levels. In 2013, Mike qualified and played in the USGA Senior Open at Indianwood GC in Lake Orion, Michigan, and in 2015 qualified for the USGA Senior Amateur in Egg Harbor, NJ. He has also been active in the Tennessee Golf Foundation and supporting junior golf programs, including the Vinny Links First Tee Program. He received the Lew Frank Award in 2018 from the Tennessee Golf Foundation for his support of growing the game in Tennessee, especially junior golf. Mike holds a BBA from the University of Memphis.
Paul L. Carter
Paul L. Carter, Certified Golf Course Superintendent for the Bear Trace at Harrison Bay State Park, was named Director of Agronomy for Tennessee State Parks in 2012. In this role Paul provides statewide guidance to all parks' greenskeepers and superintendents. Paul is a nationally recognized leader in sustainable course management practices and facilitating implementation of progressive turf practices at all state park locations. Harrison Bay cuts less grass, uses less water and less fertilizer, reduces emissions, spends less time on equipment, is wildlife-friendly and saves money in the process. Most recently, Paul was elected to the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) Board of Directors at the association's annual meeting in February, 2019. Paul was awarded GCSAA President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship in 2015. In 2013, he received the Environmental Leaders in Golf Award, which included the Public and the Overall Award from the GCSAA and Golf Digest. In 2013, Bear Trace at Harrison Bay took home the Green Star Award for Outstanding Environmental Practices from Golf Digest. In 2011, Paul was selected TurfNet Superintendent of the Year, first ever from Tennessee.
Working under the authority of the Rare Plant Protection and Conservation Act and the Natural Areas Act, the Division of Natural Areas tracks rare species and natural communities throughout Tennessee, oversees management of designated state natural areas, and evaluates lands for inclusion into the system of state natural areas and parks. The division is the lead agency for rare plant recovery in Tennessee.
DIVISION OF NATURAL AREAS, DIRECTOR
Roger McCoy has an M.S. in botany and worked with the Division of Natural Areas since 1998. With the other staff members from the division, Roger conducts rare species searches and monitoring and oversees rare species management on state natural areas. Some notable projects on which he has worked include community classification and rare species searches on a variety of lands including private lands, national parks, national and state forests, and Department of Defense lands. Roger has been the lead researcher on a variety of projects to assess the status of federally listed and candidate plant species.
The department’s archaeologists are responsible for the identification, survey, protection and excavation of important archaeological sites in Tennessee.
Recreation Education Services
Recreation Educational Services administers and oversees federal and state recreational grants to local governments, parks and communities across Tennessee. RES also assists communities with technical issues through our Parks and Recreation Technical Assistance Services (PARTAS) section and features a Greenways and Trails section providing assistance for development of greenways and trails in Tennessee.
RECREATION EDUCATION SERVICES, DIRECTOR
Gerald Parish has more than 40 years of experience in the recreation field, including 16 years with RES and five years of service as division director. He also handles technical assistance and grant program requests for West Tennessee communities. In his spare time he enjoys duck hunting, refereeing high school sports, and spoiling his grandchildren. Gerald holds an undergraduate degree from Lambuth University.