After 20 days of being closed, Gov. Bill Lee announced that the majority of Tennessee’s state parks will reopen April 24 at a press conference on April 23.
“We are absolutely thrilled to be able to open most of our state parks tomorrow morning at 7 a.m.,” said David Salyers, commissioner of the state's department of environment and conservation. “The outdoors is an important stress reliever for Tennesseans who’ve been cooped up and isolated.”
All state parks closed April 4 in accordance with Lee's Executive Order No. 23, which called for all residents to stay at home unless they were carrying out essential activities. On April 20, Lee announced that he will not extend the order, which is set to expire April 30.
Of the 56 state parks in Tennessee, only three will remain temporarily closed, including Cummins Falls State Park, Seven Islands State Birding Park and Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park. The reopening of parks will be limited to daytime hours only.
Salyers said he strongly encourages park visitors to continue social distancing practices by staying at least six feet away from other visitors, try to only go to parks near where they live, go to parks earlier in the day and to wear masks while visiting. The commissioner also said his department would likely have to limit the number of visitors to parks if they become too crowded.
“Several studies have shown that being outdoors and being in nature really do us a lot of good mentally and physically,” Salyers said. “Adherence to these guidelines is going to be critical for us to keep these parks open, and for the well-being of our guests and our staff.”
While the parks are reopening, many of their amenities will remain closed, such as facilities, gathering areas, pavilions and playgrounds, according to a press release from Tennessee State Parks. Cabins, lodges, restaurants, campgrounds and group camps will also be closed.
“We look forward to opening state parks,” Sayler said. “We’re eager to serve Tennesseans, but we need everyone’s cooperation in order to stay open.”