4 Parks for Your 2017 Bucket List

March 3, 2017  |  Permalink

Every year, we like to honor several of our parks that are doing exceptional work. While we have 56 fantastic state parks, we think you need to know about the great things happening at these specific places. Add them to your bucket list and come see why they are all deserving of recognition:

2016 Park of the Year

Roan Mountain State Park


It doesn’t take long to understand why Roan Mountain State Park won Park of the Year. This iconic and enchanting park on Tennessee’s Eastern border offers experiences like no other. It is known as the “basecamp for adventure” for its easy access to mountain overlooks, ski resorts, trout fishing and superb hiking. 

In 2016, the park was designated an Appalachian Trail Community by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC). Roan Mountain is only the second community to receive this prestigious designation in the state. It highlights the park as a premier destination for hikers to access the Appalachian Trail. 

Over the course of the year, the park strengthened its partnerships with the local community through the Carter County Tourism Committee, Chamber of Commerce and the Roan Mountain Citizens Club (RMCC) to enhance visitor experiences. It also expanded recycling operations, increased interpretive programs for youth, and constructed a Birds of Prey Aviary facility. Through grant funding from the Tennessee Historical Commission, the park successfully undertook the Miller Farmstead Preservation Project, which entailed repairs to structural deterioration on the 1907 house, which is a National Historic Site.


2016 Award of Excellence in Interpretation

Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park


Interpretation is about connecting visitors with the history the park honors and protects. No park did that better in 2016 than Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park. This park honors the legacy of one of the most decorated soldiers of World War I, Sgt. Alvin C. York. 

Throughout the year, the park renovated the visitor center and started offering guided tours of the York family home. They modeled the visitor center after Sgt. York's general store from the 1940s. Visitors can now enjoy exhibits and interpretive panels, and meet there for daily guided tours. 

The greatest achievement last year was the development of a full-scale history program to connect visitors with WWI. For many Americans, this war is difficult to understand. To help guests step into the era and life of a WWI soldier, the park constructed a 180’ trench replicating those on the Western Front. Visitors can walk through the trenches and gain a sense of what this type of warfare would entail. Throughout the year, the park hosts living history events- complete with re-enactors- to bring trench warfare to life. The crowning event last year was on Veterans’ Day when the park hosted thousands of visitors for a weekend of airplane demonstrations, battle re-enactments, and an American football game in period helmets and rules. (Photo credit: David Duplessis)


2016 Award of Excellence in Innovation

Long Hunter State Park


How do you connect children and families to the outdoors? That question drove this year’s Excellence in Innovation winner to bring the joy of reading to the trail. In 2016, Long Hunter State Park developed a self-guided trail to motivate kids to practice their reading and develop a love for the outdoors. 

The Reading Ranger Story Trail features reproduced images from a children’s nature book, author Marianne Berkes’ Over in the Forest: Come and Take a Peek, as interpretive markers along a quarter-mile wooded loop. The self-guided trail combines the love of reading with outdoor recreation, in an effort to get more kids outside and support statewide literacy goals.

The Story Trail was a collaboration between Long Hunter State Park and the Mt. Juliet branch of the Wilson County Library. In May 2017, the park will unveil a new book on the trail, making this something that families can return to time and time again. 


2016 Award of Excellence in Resource Management

South Cumberland State Park


When it comes to resource management, South Cumberland State Park is one of Tennessee’s best examples. “Resource management” is all about how a park preserves and protects the area they manage. The park took on three defining projects last year:

First, they acquired an additional 4,500-acres. These new lands protect sensitive environments and give visitors access to new bluffs, views, woodlands and some of the best outdoor rock climbing areas in the southeast.

Second, the park organized a major volunteer effort to re-route the 12.5-mile Fiery Gizzard Trail. This was no small feat and not something that happens everyday. Backpacker magazine has referred to the trail as one of the Top 25 in the US. The park had to re-direct sections of this prestigious path to accommodate private property. The park used the opportunity to improve the trail, rerouting it into the gorge and crossing over new water features to provide a more scenic experience for hikers.

Third, South Cumberland worked with the University of Tennessee to combat an invasive pest – the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid. Park staff worked to clear brush from around the endangered White Fringeless Orchid in the same area. They also repaired deer fences that surround the plant to prevent herbivores from eating the orchids.

Because of all the land acquisitions and the Fiery Gizzard re-route, South Cumberland State Park has a number of new outdoor experiences for visitors to enjoy. Because of their commitment to resource management, these outdoor adventures will be protected for generations to come. 


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Tennessee State Parks