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State Parks, at age 75, Making More Money With Leaner Raccoon Mascot

Tennessee’s state park system turned 75 this year, and if visitation is any indicator, the yearlong celebration has been a resounding success, according to the News Sentinel.
An estimated 31 million people visited Tennessee’s 54 parks in 2012.
According to Brock Hill, Tennessee’s deputy commissioner for parks and conservation, that’s a 1 million increase over last year.
“It’s been a great year for us to reconnect with folks,” Hill said. “We’ve tried to engage a whole new generation of people who previously weren’t going into parks, people who were even afraid of the woods.”
Tennessee’s park system was established by legislation in 1937. Most of the early parks were developed through Depression-era programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Works Progress Administration and eventually the Tennessee Valley Authority.
….This year, Tennessee parks teamed up with the Tennessee Department of Health to promote healthy eating and healthy hikes. They even tweaked the image of the parks’ mascot, Ramble the Raccoon, to make him look leaner and stronger.
A limited edition 75th Anniversary Passport is available at state parks, and the park’s Junior Ranger program is offered at 24 parks — double the number from a few years ago.
Revenues were up this year at Tennessee’s seven resort parks. Each year, the parks’ restaurants and inns generate about $36 million — enough to cover their operating costs as required by the General Assembly.
Tennessee is one of only eight states in the U.S. that does not charge park entry fees. The parks operate on about $75.4 million a year and receive additional appropriations for capital and maintenance projects