Newest State Park Offers Conservation with Economic Benefits
The plan to set aside land for Tennessee’s newest state park has officially started. On July 1, over 2,000 acre of pristine forest land in the Rocky Fork area was purchased and conserved by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The forest is part of the 7,600 acres recently added to the Cherokee National Forest.
This will be Tennessee’s 55th state park. It will feature fishing, horseback riding, biking, and hiking as a “low-impact” facility with “development limited to access, a welcome center, picnic area, campground, and trails.” Three miles of the Appalachian Trail runs through the land, and development will focus on connecting the trail to the future campground.
They hope to allocate around $1,3 million for the park, and will begin requesting funds once a plan is developed. The first step is to develop a road plan, and they want to use the current logging roads when possible. There are 10 species at Rocky Fork that are considered “state endangered” or “in need of management.”
The Rocky Fork area is 30 miles to the southwest of Johnson City and consists of almost 10,000 acres of habitat home to trout, salamanders, and black bears. It was purchased last year by the U.S. Forest Service in conjunction with the Southern Appalachian Highland Conservancy and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy for around $40 million.
Every dollar the state spends on state parks bring back $17 to the state economy. Surrounding communities hope to see economic growth from eco-tourism with the opportunity for attractions, lodging, and dining outside the park.