Governor Bill Haslam by executive order has renamed Rocky Fork State Park in Unicoi County as Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park, honoring Tennessee’s senior senator for his record of service and commitment to preservation.
“Senator Alexander has spent a lifetime serving Tennesseans and promoting Tennessee to the world,” Governor Haslam said. “He loves the state from Memphis to Mountain City. His roots are in East Tennessee, and it is fitting that this special place in this special state bears his name.
Tennessee’s state parks are indebted to him and his service both as governor and as senator, and visitors to this state park will be reminded of his work every time they visit.”
Senator Alexander was influential in securing federal funding for the land as a United States senator. Rocky Fork is a 10,000-acre tract of mountainous land with elevations as high as 4,800 feet. Beginning in 2006, Alexander helped secure more than $30 million to purchase the tract and add it to the Cherokee National Forest so it would be permanently available for public use. In 2012, Haslam announced that more than 2,000 acres of the Rocky Fork tract would become Tennessee’s 55th state park. Alexander attended that announcement and the grand opening of the state park in September 2015.
“I am grateful for this unexpected and thoughtful gesture by Governor Haslam,” Senator Alexander said. “Rocky Fork is a treasure in one of the most beautiful sections of our country. It is Upper East Tennessee’s ‘Gateway to the Appalachian Trail.’ Because of its natural beauty and high elevations, it should soon be one of our state’s most popular parks. Living in the foothills of the Smokies, I have seen how a popular park can provide outdoor experiences for Tennesseans and also attract tourism, jobs and tax dollars to adjacent counties.”
Environmental leaders also expressed appreciation for Senator Alexander’s efforts and supported the renaming of the park.
“Senator Alexander has been an indispensable champion in the multi-year endeavor to conserve this treasured mountain land, and his support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund in Tennessee was essential to the creation of this state park,” said Pat Noonan, chairman emeritus of The Conservation Fund, the organization that helped the state acquire the land. “The naming of the park in his honor is a wonderful legacy for the senator and a gesture of gratitude for all of his tireless work over the years with the partners, and federal, state and local entities to ensure that Rocky Fork and many other outdoor havens across Tennessee are protected for generations to come."
"Senator Alexander has been tireless in championing for the preservation of Rocky Fork, recognizing its scenic and pristine beauty and the importance of the watershed,” said Morgan Sommerville, southern regional director for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. “The senator’s efforts enabled a wonderful improvement in the route of the Appalachian Trail, from a muddy road to a winding path through lush Tennessee hardwoods, adding to the senator’s legacy.”
Senator Alexander has been noted for many preservation efforts. He was listed in 2016 as one of the 100 most influential people in the history of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park by the Great Smoky Mountains Association. He sponsored the Tennessee Wilderness Act, which became law last year, and designated 20,000 acres in the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee as wilderness. In 2017, Alexander received the Bruce F. Vento Public Service Award from the National Park Trust in recognition of his extraordinary efforts to support national parks and public lands.
Senator Alexander, a native of Maryville, has held his seat in the U.S. Senate since 2003. He served as governor of Tennessee from 1979-1987, served as president of the University of Tennessee from 1988-1991 and was U.S. Secretary of Education from 1991-1993.
Here is the order:
AN ORDER RENAMING THE ROCKY FORK STATE PARK AS THE LAMAR ALEXANDER ROCKY FORK STATE PARK
WHEREAS, Rocky Fork State Park is comprised of over 2,000 wilderness acres in the Appalachian Mountains in Unicoi County and was designated as a state park in 2012; and
WHEREAS, Rocky Fork State Park is one of Tennessee's newest state parks and features primitive land, pristine mountain streams, spectacular overlooks, miles of trails, and diverse plant and animal habitats; and
WHEREAS, several state and federal agencies and conservation groups led the effort to protect the Rocky Fork property for public use, resulting in the state purchasing the tract for this purpose; and
WHEREAS, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is engaging stakeholders on long-term planning for sustainable recreation and infrastructure for Rocky Fork State Park; and
WHEREAS, Rocky Fork State Park can be a catalyst for outdoor recreation and tourism in the region; and
WHEREAS, Lamar Alexander was raised in Maryville, Tennessee in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains and has served as Governor of Tennessee, President of the University of Tennessee, and United States Secretary of Education and currently serves as United States Senator; and
WHEREAS, Lamar Alexander is a tireless advocate for the outdoors and has been a leader in protecting our state's and country's natural resources; and
WHEREAS, during his tenure as governor, Lamar Alexander was recognized as the Tennessee Wildlife Federation's Conservationist of the Year in 1984 and the National Wildlife Federation's Conservationist of the Year in I 985; and
WHEREAS, Lamar Alexander served as chairman of President Ronald Reagan's Commission on Americans Outdoors in 1986; and
WHEREAS, while serving as United States Senator, Lamar Alexander has supported investment in national parks and measures to protect our environment for future generations; and
WHEREAS, Lamar Alexander has been recognized by numerous conservation organizations for his appreciation of, and extraordinary efforts to protect, public lands and national parks; and
WHEREAS, Lamar Alexander was a driving force behind the creation of Rocky Fork State Park and has led recent efforts to enhance the Cherokee National Forest, which neighbors Rocky Fork State Park; and
WHEREAS, permanently renaming the Rocky Fork State Park to honor Lamar Alexander is appropriate and fitting for a public servant and statesman who cares deeply about Tennessee and the outdoors.
NOW THEREFORE, I, Bill Haslam, Governor of the State of Tennessee, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Tennessee Constitution and applicable law, do hereby direct and order that the Rocky Fork State Park shall be known from this day forward as the Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park, and all signage and other materials shall reflect this change.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have subscribed my signature and caused the Great Seal of the State of Tennessee to be affixed this 7th day of January, 2019.