Tennessee State Parks and elected officials broke ground on Tuesday for a new inn, restaurant and conference center at Fall Creek Falls State Park, part of a broader $200 million investment in state parks over the last eight years by Governor Bill Haslam’s administration and the Tennessee General Assembly.
The facility at Fall Creek Falls is part of over $175 million in capital projects appropriated for state parks since 2011.
“This reinvestment in Tennessee’s most famous state park is indicative of similar reinvestments made from Memphis to Kingsport,” said Brock Hill, deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. “Over $175 million in capital reinvestment is already paying back dividends through increased visitation, customer satisfaction, and revenue growth.”
Tennessee’s state parks received more than 38 million visits in 2018, the highest recorded visitation ever. Tennessee State Parks have strategically, and selectively, added nearly 40,000 acres to state park and natural area holdings under the Haslam administration. The additions in the last eight years include three unique state parks – Cummins Falls State Park in Jackson County; Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park in Unicoi County; and Seven Islands State Birding Park in Knox County, bringing the current total of state parks to 56.
The state now manages or oversees more than 225,000 acres in Tennessee, one of the largest state park public land portfolios in the eastern United States.
Investments in the last eight years enhance rural economic development and have addressed a maintenance backlog and brought much-needed updates to the state’s hospitality assets – inns, conference centers, restaurants, marinas, campgrounds and cabins. Capital investments since 2011, with some projects funded but not yet completed, include:
· New visitor centers at Fall Creek Falls, Bledsoe Creek, Cummins Falls, Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork and Henry Horton state parks
· New group camp at Booker T. Washington State Park and group camp renovation at Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park
· Cabin renovations at Cumberland Mountain, Chickasaw, Standing Stone and Norris Dam state parks
· Conversion of bathhouse at Cumberland Mountain State Park to an interpretive center
· New pedestrian bridges at Cumberland Mountain State Park, Chickasaw State Park and Seven Islands State Birding Park.
· New cabins at Reelfoot Lake and Pickwick Landing state parks
· Inn renovations at Montgomery Bell, Pickwick Landing and Natchez Trace state parks
· New inn at Paris Landing State Park
· 13 campground renovations
· ADA upgrades at four parks
Fall Creek Falls State Park has seen the renovation of 20 cabins and the refurbishment of an additional 10; renovation of Village Green buildings; installation of a new irrigation system at the golf course; renovation of the swimming pool and snack bar area; new playground area; roof replacements; restroom upgrades; and fresh paint.
At Fall Creek Falls, the new inn and restaurant are forecast to generate $278,000 per year in sales and occupancy taxes, a growth of $90,000 per year compared to revenue from the previous facility. Short-term, construction is expected to bring in an estimated $14.7 million in taxable spending to the area, along with more than 100 construction jobs.
The 98,000-square-foot facility is designed to reflect the natural setting of the park and will include three floors of visitor space with double rooms, king rooms and suites at the inn; indoor and outdoor gathering areas with larger meeting rooms for conferences; and paths connecting the facility to recreational trails at the park. The restaurant faces Fall Creek Lake, providing scenic views for diners.
The facilities at Fall Creek Falls are part of a robust number of state parks in the Upper Cumberland region, including Burgess Falls State Park; Cumberland Mountain State Park; Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Scenic Trail State Park; Rock Island State Park; Sgt. Alvin C. York State Park; Standing Stone State Park; Cummins Falls State Park; Cordell Hull Birthplace State Park; Edgar Evins State Park; and Pickett CCC Memorial State Park.