State park investments not only support recreation, they also help economically distressed counties.
That’s according to TDEC Commissioner David Salyers. He said nearly all of the states distressed counties have the foundation to bring in outdoor tourism.
“Most of our parks and many, as far as our distressed counties, I think we have 10 parks in distressed counties,” Salyers said. “We have parks within 50 miles of every location, you can access those across the state in 56 state parks.”
The distressed county in the Upper Cumberland without a state park is Clay County. The five at-risk counties all have a state park, those include White, Jackson, Warren, Fentress and Van Buren County.
Salyers said the pandemic has opened the door for the Upper Cumberland’s at-risk communities.
“While COVID has been a terrible crisis, there has been a silver lining in it,” Salyers said. “Our citizens and folks from across the nation have rediscovered nature and have enjoyed getting back out and I think this exposure is going to help us long term, going forward.”
Salyers said state parks are a vital to rural economies. Salyers said the parks bring people in, who might not have any other reason to visit a distressed or at-risk county.
“They buy gas, they buy groceries, they shop, they eat at restaurants,” Salyers said. “It’s a very, very important part of the economy in rural counties.”
TDEC Commissioners made two stops in the Upper Cumberland on Tuesday. The first stop was for the new visitor center at Cummins Falls and the second was for a cabin renovation at Standing Stone State Park.
Upper Cumberland Counties who are not at risk, but contain a state park include Putnam, Overton, Dekalb, Pickett and Cumberland County.