Cummins Falls has opened its new visitor center Tuesday morning, a day Park Manager Ray Cutcher has been waiting on for over six years.
What used to a be 12 x 12 foot area for park employees to operate from, is now an over 5,000 square foot visitor center. State Senator Paul Bailey said this new look will play a big part in greeting first time visitors in the Upper Cumberland.
“While we’ve continued to see our visitor count continue to rise, year over year,” Bailey said. “It’s really way past time that we have a beautiful facility to be able to welcome Tennesseans, but as well as those that are travelling from all across our nation.”
This tourism hub is named in honor of Tennessee’s first State Naturalist Mack Prichard. Cutcher said Prichard was instrumental in making Tuesday’s opening a reality.
“This was the last park that Mack influenced becoming a state park,” Cutcher said. “That alone, the fact that he was the first one to get a hold of some key players and bring them over here and say, ‘hey, we need to protect this place.”
Now that the visitor center is open, Jackson County Chamber of Commerce President Jordan Hunter said the time has come to see his area benefit from Cummins Falls. Hunter said he believes the new center can help visitors see more of Jackson County, now that there’s more room to advertise the county.
“I think that right there alone can drive people back into Gainesboro and Granville and our other tourist areas,” Hunter said. “Even the river really, I mean kayaking on Roaring River and places like that, let them know what else is out there to offer in the county.”
Cutcher said he anticipates welcoming 350,000 to 450,000 visitors over the next year. Cutcher said the new facility will allow for more programs and exhibits highlighting Cummins Fall’s natural heritage.