Under the new leadership of David Salyers at Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and Jim Bryson at the Bureau of Parks and Conservation, the plans for development of Rocky Fork State Park are being re-visited.
At two planning meetings last week—facilitated by Robert Reedy of Reedy and Sykes Architectural Consultants who have designed numerous facilities in Tennessee State Parks—input from many stakeholders was gathered to help guide new plans for the park. TDEC staff stated that the road up Flint Mountain is no longer being considered and announced other changes under consideration, such as moving the location of the visitor center to a site outside the park on the area’s main road.
The meetings were structured as charrettes with small focus groups discussing various topics including preservation of natural and cultural sites, types and locations of facilities, means of access to the park, recreational opportunities and development to support them, land management on park and surrounding forest service lands, and opportunities for economic development as a result of the park. These “roundtable” groups were facilitated by staff from TDEC, US Forest Service, Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership, and area park managers and rangers.
After the sessions, facilitators reported to attendees the predominant consensus of input for each group. These reports revealed the overall desire to preserve the park’s wild and pristine nature by limiting development and locating facilities outside the park. The input showed a preference for low-impact hiking, nature study, historic site interpretation, and overall protection and preservation of the ecology of Rocky Fork. There was widespread consensus that roads, buildings, and developed campgrounds are not appropriate in the park.
These meetings mark the return of a Planning Office for State Parks, which has been absent in recent years, now brought back under the leadership of Anne Marshall, Senior Advisor to Jim Bryson. Rocky Fork stands to benefit as the first subject of an improved planning process now in the works.
Next, Reedy and Sykes will compile the input gathered last week into a report to present to TDEC in about one month. Then additional input will be sought if needed, and by April or May TDEC hopes to have a draft plan available for release to the public. When that happens there may be public meetings or there may simply be a public comment period, so be alert for your chance to provide your own input. TDEC hopes to have a final plan in place by July.