Tennessee State Parks is joining the CDC and the Tennessee Department of Health in encouraging Tennesseans not to travel and instead visit their own nearby state parks in an effort to help flatten the curve of COVID-19.
In addition, the park system is also announcing a series of operational changes beginning tomorrow, March 26.
Deputy Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Jim Bryson said the state's park system is "part of the fabric of Tennessee communities" and "have been an important place of renewal during this crisis."
"The measures announced today will continue to provide healthy outdoor spaces for Tennesseans while providing more protection for our neighbors and our staff," Bryson said. "We can do our part to flatten the curve of COVID-19 while continuing to provide open spaces when our neighbors need it most."
The operational changes include the transition to "day-use" schedules for all 56 state parks. They will open daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. The new schedule goes into effect tomorrow, March 26, and will be in place until at least April 10.
During this period, all public gathering spaces such as visitor centers, shelters and playgrounds at state parks will be closed. Additionally, parks cabins, lodges and campgrounds will be closed. Future reservations with arrival dates between now and April 9 will be canceled. The parks will waive cancellation fees during this time.
Camps catering to large groups will be closed during the same period. Golf courses and clubhouses in the parks will also be closed. Parks events of greater than 10 people will be canceled or postponed, in accordance with Gov. Bill Lee’s Executive Order 17. All park-hosted events have been canceled through April 15. Restaurants, cafes and bars will remain closed until at least April 10.
Along with the new schedules and closures, Tennessee State Parks strongly encourage guests to practice social distancing and follow guidelines for hygiene while visiting the parks. Limited restrooms and bath houses remain open that will be cleaned based on established cleaning protocols in the parks.
Tennessee State Parks will continue to assess the implications of COVID-19 and will alert the public when dates are determined for the reopening of public facilities and overnight accommodations. For up to date information about Tennessee State Parks or your local park, Tennesseans are encouraged to visit the Tennessee State Parks website at tnstateparks.com and visit https://tnstateparks.com/about/keeping-visitors-healthy.
Erin McCullough may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.