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Support Tennessee State Parks In The Big Payback

April 29, 2021  |  Permalink

The Big Payback Supporting Tennessee State Parks

Behind every Tennessee State Park stands a strong group of advocates who selflessly offer their time, talents, and energy to ensure their favorite park is protected and continually improving. Every visitor benefits from their efforts, but only some recognize who’s responsible for the constant enhancements of their favorite natural spaces. It’s time to celebrate the nonprofit groups behind our parks such as the Tennessee State Parks Conservancy and the Friends Groups.

May 5th at 6 PM through May 6th at 6 PM, the Big Payback is giving you the chance to help support these nonprofits and leave a positive impact on a park that has impacted you. The Big Payback is an annual event held in May dedicated to raising funds for Middle Tennessee nonprofits like our park’s friends groups and the Tennessee State Parks Conservancy. 

What is the Tennessee State Parks Conservancy?

The Tennessee State Parks Conservancy

Established in 2016, the Tennessee State Parks Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit partner of the Tennessee State Parks system. Although many parks have a Friends group to support their specific park, the Tennessee State Parks Conservancy supports projects and programs that span multiple parks. From helping children get out of the classroom and learn about wildlife at our parks to building storybook trails that promote early childhood literacy and exercise, the Tennessee State Parks Conservancy is dedicated to supporting our parks and engaging communities in the outdoors.


How your donation makes a difference

The Tennessee State Parks Conservancy works to raise funds for educational programs, health initiatives, and special park projects that preserve, protect, and enhance the 56 state parks across Tennessee.



What are Friends Groups?

Since 1993, concerned citizens have banded together to form Friend Groups to provide a treasured gift to the park for the enjoyment of generations to come. As a 501 (c) (3)  non-profit, the groups are able to support park programs, projects, and land acquisition efforts through financial contributions and member action. With the growing need for safe recreational facilities, environmental education, and open spaces, the support of these Friend Groups matters more than ever.


Friends of South Cumberland State Park

About the Friends 

Now protecting nearly 31,000 acres, South Cumberland is the largest State Park in Tennessee. Although this is great news, more land and more visitors creates new and urgent unmet needs for the park. The Friends of South Cumberland State Park have been making improvements to the park such as:

  • Purchased land to add to the park
  • Built bridges, a Ranger house, and picnic shelters
  • Created educational programs for local schools
  • Created a new interpretive area at the site of the Civilian Conservation Corps camp
  • Renovated the visitors center
  • Provided construction materials and rescue equipment
How your donation makes a difference

The Friends of South Cumberland speak on what improvements are needed in the park, and how your donations from the Big Payback can insure that South Cumberland will always be a safe, well-maintained and amazing place to experience world-class natural beauty! 

“Trails must be maintained or upgraded. Improved trailheads, interpretive and directional signage are needed. Invasive pests, like the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, and invasive plants must be controlled. Guided hikes, seminars and workshops, including programs for area school children, must be prepared and delivered. And, the work of conserving additional environmentally-significant lands is far from complete.”



Friends of Cumberland Mountain State Park

About the Friends 

Not only do the Friends of Cumberland Mountain State Park protect a lake and over 1,000 acres of forest, they also contribute to the preservation and continued education of its rich history as a former CCC camp. The Friends Group at Cumberland Mountain State Park has a large and active membership. Past projects include:

  • Raised funds for a new aviary that included an amphitheater for educational programs and a larger space to house more hurt birds of prey that can’t survive in the wild.
  • Facilitated the use of grant money obtained by Park Manager Monica Johnson to purchase new kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, PFD’s, paddles, replacement parts, and a kayak/canoe trailer to encourage exercise through boating.
  • Provided labor and financial support for annual races like the Byrd Creek Trail Run and the Cumberland Mountain Triathalon
  • Installed reusable water bottle filling stations around the park
  • Provided support for coffee with a Ranger, Jr. Ranger Camp, wildflower photography workshops, and various other educational programs
How your donation makes a difference

Chip Hillis Standing at One of the CCC Picnic Tables at Cumberland Mountain

Your donation to the Friends of Cumberland Mountain State Park will go towards restoring 16 picnic tables built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. These picnic tables were built in the late 1930s and hold great significance to the park's origins and those who love to use them. Found near the boat dock in the park, these picnic tables offer beautiful views of Byrd Lake. Though the planks for the benches and table tops have been replaced since the 1930s, they are again in need of attention.

The Friends of Cumberland Mountain State Park have set a goal to raise $2,400, enough to provide the $150 needed to replace the planks on each table. You can learn more about this effort in the Crossville Chronicle's recent article.



Friends of Long Hunter State Park

About the Friends

Long Hunter State Park is located 40 minutes from Nashville and provides a retreat to observe wildlife, admire rare and endangered wildflowers, paddle scenic Couchville Lake, or engage in exercise on a trail. The Friends of Long Hunter State Park have been working to protect and preserve the park since 1991. Below are just a few accomplishments of the Friends of Long Hunter:

  • Establish outreach programs for senior citizens
  • Started the award-winning Nature Circle program for pre-school children
  • Created the first state-certified arboretum in Tennessee State Parks
  • Organized multiple popular events such as Dancing in the Park and Trivia Night
  • Made a continuous effort to help clean up the trails and lakeshores within the park
How your donation makes a difference

This will be the fifth year the Friends of Long Hunter State Park has participated in the Big Payback. This has become a significant and needed source of revenue. These donations have helped support major trail building and maintenance projects within the park, most notably the major extension of the Jones Mill Bike Trail and the enhancement of the Story Book Trail, which is ongoing. Other improvements include signage, trails, and the purchase of equipment for park maintenance. 



Friends of the Johnsonville State Historic Park

About the Friends 

Johnsonville State Historic Park commemorates the site of the Johnsonville Depot, the Battle of Johnsonville and the historic town site of Johnsonville that existed from 1864-1944 prior to the formation of Kentucky Lake. Below are just some of the projects the Friends of Johnsonville State Historic Park have completed:

  • Helped to raise funds for the new visitors center that features interpretive displays to teach visitors about the park’s rich history
  • Worked to place books on the historical importance of the park into school libraries throughout the county
  • Created events that provided transportation to senior citizens in assisted living homes and included driving park tours.
  • Worked at aid stations and provided financial support for the Johnsonville Charge 5K.
  • Hosted numerous educational events throughout the year to engage the community
How your donation makes a difference

The Friends of Johnsonville State Historic Park are working to raise $500 to purchase an additional AED for the park. The $500 donated will match a grant they are seeking for the other $500 needed to purchase this equipment. Last year during the big payback, they raised funds to acquire their first AED which prepared them in the event a park visitor experiences cardiac arest.

What's an AED? An AED, or automated external defibrillator, is used to help those experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.



Friends of Cedars of Lebanon State Park

About the Friends

The Friends of Cedars of Lebanon State Park help protect over 9,000 acres home to 19 rare species of wildflowers that are found only in the cedar glade environment. The park and forest offer outdoor enthusiasts many educational and recreational opportunities as well as a natural refuge from the surrounding metropolitan areas.

As metropolitan development continues to move east from Nashville, the acquisition of land for preservation is becoming more important. In 2019, the Friends of Cedars of Lebanon assisted in the acquisition of the bordering 80-acre Ford Reed property, which holds the Sadie Ford Heritage Farm & Cultural Arts Center. The center offers an immersive, year-round educational experience of living history to the public. Some of their additional projects include:

  • Park cleanups
  • Numerous educational events throughout the year such as Junior Ranger Camp 
  • Assisted with annual athletic events
How your donation makes a difference

Your donation to the Friends of Cedars of Lebanon will be used to protect and improve the park through projects such as trail maintenance, volunteer events, educational programs, and more.



Friends of Tims Ford State Park 

About the Friends 

The Friends of Tims Ford help protect the 1,321-acre park that sits on the banks of picturesque The Tims Ford Lake. Below are just some of the projects the Friends of Tims Ford State Park have completed:

  • Installing a storybook trail
  • Creating events that connect kids to parks
  • Helped organize trail maintenance days
  • Improved and provided funding for the park’s birds of prey program
How your donation makes a difference

Tims Ford Controlled Burn

The Friends of Tims Ford is trying to raise money for a piece of firefighting equipment that is needed by the park for public safety and to support their prescribed fire program for the Big Payback this year.  The piece of equipment that is needed is a “slip-in pumper unit” (basically a water tank with a pump and hose on a reel) costing $13,000 and so far, a little over $2,500 has been raised. 

The equipment will have a direct impact on all parts of the park by allowing park staff to safely burn in the fall and spring to help improve the aesthetics and health of the parks forested and field areas and provide for public safety by allowing staff to easily suppress wildfires. There were two wildfires on park land this month. 



Friends of Radnor Lake

About the Friends 

The Friends of Radnor Lake help protect and improve Radnor Lake, a 1,402 acre Class II Natural Area featuring trails that wander through the woods surrounding the lake. The park provides an oasis for Middle Tennessee where hikers can enjoy the native wildlife. Below are just some of the projects the Friends of Radnor Lake State Park have completed:

  • Land acquisition
  • Watershed protection – protecting wildlife and native plants from runoff chemicals.
  • Water quality studies and monitoring
  • Invasive exotic plant removal.
  • Created a renewed habitat for birds, butterflies, and endangered species
  • Construction of an aviary and an observation deck
  • Assisted with educational youth programs such as Jr. Ranger Camp
How your donation makes a difference

Your donation to the Friends of Radnor Lake will go to the continued preservation and improvement of the park through projects like those listed above.



Support A Park You Love

If you love a particular park that isn’t included in the Big Payback, you can still donate by choosing a specific park or donating to the Tennessee State Parks general fund.


How your donation makes a difference

Your donations help us continue investing in quality programs and services like:

  • Building and maintaining new trails
  • Feeding and care for our birds of prey (eagles, hawks, owls, etc.)
  • Providing children's programs to connect youth to the outdoors
  • Upgrading our playground equipment
  • Projects that improve visitor experience, not funded by the state's General Fund

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