Tag Archives: parks

State parks to benefit from TN Promise scholars labor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Promise scholars can perform community service hours with events planned across the state later this month.

State parks and natural areas are offering the events on July 23 at all 56 parks. The student volunteers can clear brush, limbs and invasive plants; plant flowers; build trails; assist with community events; or maintain historic features.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said in a news release the projects are designed to beautify the parks and natural areas and provide meaningful outdoors experiences for the volunteers.

Tennessee Promise provides tuition-free community and technical college to recent high school graduates. This fall, all Tennessee Promise students using the program are required to complete eight hours of community service by Aug. 1.

For a list of events and to register, visit http://www.tnstateparks.com/about/special-event-cards/tn-promise-saturday or contact Nancy Schelin at (615) 532-5249 or nancy.schelin@tn.gov.

Protesters block Memphis Zoo parking; Cohen gets involved

A congressman Cohen and Memphis Police successfully negotiated an end to a sit-in of sorts by protesters who oppose parking by visitors to the Memphis zoo on a grassy area of Overton Park, reports the Commercial Appeal.

No arrests or injuries occurred by midday after Memphis police and U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, whose home borders the park, negotiated a middle-ground solution — just for Saturday — that allowed vehicles to park on about a third of the large lawn bordered by the Memphis Zoo, Memphis College of Art and Rainbow Lake.

Since receiving the backing earlier this month from the Memphis City Council, zoo officials had expanded zoo parking to cover most of the greensward on high-visitation days.

Several witnesses said the civil disobedience started midmorning when a woman in her 20s lay down in the dirt drive to block cars from entering the greensward.

Others quickly joined her, including musicians playing a mandolin, guitar, accordion and conga drum.

Police swooped in, but instead of making arrests and clearing a path, Memphis Police Maj. Dana Sampietro talked with Cohen and some protest leaders, including insurance agent Bill Stegall who lives in the adjoining Evergreen Historic Disitrict.

Facing a crowd of perhaps 200 protesters, Stegall used a squad car’s microphone to announce the compromise and encourage the protesters to accept it.

“First I want to say something about the Memphis police force,” Stegall told the protesters. “They have just been as nice…” The crowd roared its approval.

No bids received for TN state parks outsourcing

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s effort to outsource hospitality operations at 11 state parks has failed to draw any interest from private vendors.

Haslam has long said park services like restaurants, golf courses, inns and marinas are prime examples of areas where private vendors could do a better and cheaper job than state government.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation earlier this month requested $55 million to upgrade facilities at parks before operations could be handed over to private vendors. But at least one of the three companies that had expressed interest in a bid dropped out over uncertainty about whether lawmakers would approve the money.

Brock Hill, a deputy commissioner of the Environment and Conservation Department, told reporters after budget hearings earlier this month that vendors who toured the parks were “shocked, to some degree, that they were in as bad shape as they were.”

“They hadn’t been reinvested in to the degree they should have been over the last few decades,” he said.

Haslam spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals said Monday that the administration “is evaluating potential next steps at this time.”
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TDEC proposes giving private contractors $55M to fix state parks

At a budget hearing Thursday, state Department of Environment and Conservation officials proposed to give private contractors $55 million they can use to make needed improvements before taking over management of “hospitality” functions at 11 of the largest Tennessee state parks.

The money would go toward what the officials say is a $120 million backlog of deferred maintenance needed at parks, according to the News Sentinel.

The agency is also asking for another $15 million toward the remaining $65 million in deferred maintenance at the 43 other state parks and the parts of the 11 parks not included in the outsourcing plan.

That plan includes what the department calls the hospitality functions — inns, conference centers, cabins, restaurants, golf courses, marinas and gift shops — at Cumberland Mountain, David Crockett, Fall Creek Falls, Harrison Bay, Henry Horton, Montgomery Bell, Natchez Trace, Paris Landing, Pickwick Landing, Tims Ford and Warrior’s Path state parks.

The $55 million is considered crucial enough to any outsourcing deal for the parks that procurement documents on the state’s website say the plan would likely be scrapped if the Legislature doesn’t approve the allocation. In the question-and-answer phase of the bid process, at least one potential contractor indicated it might be reluctant to bid without the certainty that the taxpayer funding will be approved.

Environment and Conservation Commissioner Robert Martineau and Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill said Thursday they won’t know how many vendors will file bids until after the Dec. 11 deadline. When the state first issued requests for bids, it proposed a single contract for hospitality functions at all 11 parks, but revised it later so that a contractor must agree to take on those functions at least three parks.

After next week’s bid opening, the department’s timeline calls for months of review and possible negotiations with contractors before contracts are to be signed next July 15.

…The proposed contract gives the contractor authority to set rates at the inns, marinas, golf courses and other facilities they would manage, up to “market rates in the area,” and must only give the department notice of the rates.

“They’re going to want to get a payback on their investment,” Hill told reporters after the hearing. “The other side to (the state’s $55 million grant) is there’s $19 million in fixtures, furniture and equipment that we’re asking the private-sector partner to invest. If we invested $55 million, we’re looking for them to invest $19 million and the $19 million is savings to the taxpaying public of Tennessee.”

New state natural area planned in Putnam County

The state plans to purchase 100 acres near the existing Burgess Falls State Park in Putnam County, reports the Cookeville Herald-Citizen. Burgess Falls Park Manager Bill Summers announced the plan for new Window Cliffs State Natural Area at a county commission meeting. It’s expected to open in about two years.

The area is known for several waterfalls and natural rock formations known as window cliffs, which are limestones with archs created by erosion, making them resemble a window or bridge. There are apparently only a few areas in Tennessee with these natural formations.

Summers also detailed a four-mile walking trail that is planned for the area, as well as bridges and a parking lot.

Though Burgess Falls and the new park are close in proximity to each other, Summers noted they are not physically connected. There could be potential to connect them, however, if property owners are willing to sell land between the two.

County Executive Randy Porter praised the creation of the new park.

“I’m glad to see we’re preserving some of our great natural resources to be enjoyed by generations to come,” he said. “We’re excited that this park is being created in Putnam County. We always want to do things that increase the quality of life and give more recreational outlets.

He also noted how the park will have an impact on area tourism, saying, “We think it’s going to be a big attraction to our county and bring in more tourists and tourism dollars.”


Guns banned TN Valley Fair despite state law

Guns will be banned at the Tennessee Valley Fair this weekend in Knoxville despite a state law that allows handgun carry permit holder to take weapons into city parks and a state attorney general’s opinion saying the law applies at ticketed events, reports the News Sentinel.

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero’s reasoning: The law applies to city parks and the location, Chilhowee Park, is not a city park.

City-owned Chilhowee Park, despite its name, is not a park but “a public assembly, entertainment and education venue used for civic events and by contractors for special events,” the mayor said in a written statement.

“Chilhowee Park is not managed as a city of Knoxville park by the Parks and Recreation Department, nor does it function as a park or recreation facility,” Rogero said in the statement. “It has, for a number of years, been managed and marketed by the city’s Public Assembly Facilities Department for entertainment events and exhibitions. Therefore, guns will continue to be prohibited at Chilhowee Park, pursuant to state law, including at events such as the Tennessee Valley Fair.”
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Movie expected to bring surge in Appalachian Trail hiking

MARYVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — National Park officials are expecting a spike in traffic along the Appalachian Trail after the release next month of a Hollywood film about two hikers who attempt to conquer the 2,190-mile route.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials saw a 60 percent increase in traffic in the area after Billy Bryson’s book, “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on The Appalachian Trail,” was published, according to The Daily Times in Maryville (http://bit.ly/1PHfqlo). The movie, out Sept. 2, is based on the 1998 book and stars Robert Redford and Nick Nolte.

Christine Hoyer, backcountry management specialist for the park, says officials knew the movie was coming.

“There’s been quite a large group working on this for a year,” she said.
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Memphis Council votes to remove Forrest statute from park

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis City Council has voted to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest from a public park.

Local news outlets report that council members voted 11-1 Tuesday to remove the statue of the rebel general, slave trader and early Ku Klux Klan member from Health Sciences Park.

Council member William Boyd cast the only “no” vote, while Edmund Ford Jr. was present but not voting.

The vote follows the council’s July 7 approval of a resolution to move the bodies of Forrest and his wife from the park back to their original Memphis burial plot.

Although the vote has concluded, officials say the statue’s future is uncertain. The city may need approval from the Tennessee Historical Commission, which next meets in October, to remove the statue

Corporations touring state parks with eye toward privatization

Large private out-of-state vendors are touring Tennessee state parks this week to gather information about their operations and potential for profit as part of the Haslam administration’s sweeping plan to privatize management and operations of virtually every state-owned facility, reports Richard Locker.

Despite months of planning and working with vendors, neither Gov. Bill Haslam nor his top lieutenants have led any public discussion of what would be the most comprehensive change in the operation of state government in decades, potentially throwing thousands of state employees out of work and shifting others into jobs with private companies.

Instead, the plans first surfaced publicly with a “Request for Information for Facilities Management Outsourcing” posted Aug. 11 on a state Department of General Services’ website viewed mainly by potential state contractors. The document invites companies interested in the contracted management of a broad range of state activities to submit information, by Aug. 21, on how they would proceed. The RFI says their responses will be kept confidential.

The document specifically lists as potentially up for outsourcing “office space; higher education, including classrooms, administrative space, dormitories, etc.; hospitals; prisons; parks and recreational, including hospitality centers, hotels (inns), campground facilities, etc.; Military; etc.”

As part of that effort, a small group of major national vendors, including Aramark and Delaware North, are making site visits at several Tennessee State Parks across the state whose retail operations the Haslam administration is proposing to outsource, including inns, cabins, campgrounds, restaurants, marinas and golf courses. This week’s meetings began Monday at Montgomery Bell State Park just west of Nashville and end Friday at Paris Landing State Park in West Tennessee, according to a source with firsthand knowledge of the tours but who wasn’t allowed to speak publicly.

At each park, the vendors are given a group tour of the parks and their facilities and then meet with park managers to discuss operations, finances and employment. The initial tours are focused on 11 of the biggest state parks seen as having the potential to produce revenue: Cumberland Mountain, Davy Crockett, Fall Creek Falls, Harrison Bay, Henry Horton, Montgomery Bell, Natchez Trace, Paris Landing, Pickwick, Tims Ford, and Warrior’s Path.

Under the proposal, the parks would remain state-owned parks but private vendors would be awarded long-term leases for much of their operations.

…The state Legislature this year approved a law allowing alcoholic beverages to be sold in state parks for the first time, a move seen as making the parks more attractive to private vendors.

Alexander pushes to include more Civil War battlefields in National Park system

News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander’s office:
WASHINGTON, D.C., August 5, – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today introduced legislation that would expand the boundary of Shiloh National Military Park to include three Civil War battlefields in Tennessee and Mississippi and designate Parker’s Crossroads as an affiliated area of the National Park System.

“As Americans, we have a special obligation to preserve and protect our heritage,” Alexander said. “Including these Civil War battlefields in the National Park System will honor that commitment, while providing an opportunity to attract more visitors to Tennessee and strengthen the local economies.”

The legislation would designate battlefields at Davis Bridge and Fallen Timbers in Tennessee and Russell House in Tennessee and Mississippi as part of Shiloh National Military Park.

The National Park Service has already determined that these battlefields are nationally significant and in need of preservation and protection, and the majority of the land included in this legislation is currently owned by the state of Tennessee or the Civil War Trust, which would speed the process of including these areas in the system