Tennessee State Parks is a finalist for the 2021 National Gold Medal Awards for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management, according to the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration (AAPRA), in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA).
“Our state parks system is embedded in the fabric of Tennessee communities,” said David Salyers, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. “Resource protection, natural beauty, top-notch facilities and outdoor experiences make Tennessee State Parks among the best in the nation.”
The National Gold Medal awards looks at successes in state park management over the last several years. During that time, significant strides have been made in capital project completion at state parks. These include the opening of fully renovated lodges at Montgomery Bell and Pickwick Landing state parks; rejuvenating 1930s era cabins at Standing Stone, Pickett and Cumberland Mountain state parks; and the construction of the Fall Creek Falls and Cummins Falls visitors centers. Tennessee State Parks prioritizes access to outdoor recreation by partnering with school districts and rural and distressed counties to improve local access and drive tourism to these communities. Tennessee State Parks provided much-needed places of respite during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 34 million visitors took advantage of Tennessee State Parks in 2020, with a record-setting campground and cabin occupancy.
Founded in 1965, the National Gold Medal Awards program honors communities in the U.S. that demonstrate excellence in parks and recreation through long-range planning, resource management, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, program development, professional development, and agency recognition.
Agencies are judged on their ability to address the needs of those they serve through the collective energies of community members, staff, and elected officials. Tennessee State Parks joins three other finalists in the state parks category: Delaware State Parks, Ohio Division of State Parks & Watercraft, and Texas State Parks. A panel of five park and recreation professionals reviews and judges all application materials. A winner will be announced during the 2021 NRPA Annual Conference in Nashville, Sept. 21–23, 2021.