NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has named Cummins Falls State Park in Cookeville as its Park of the Year as part of the 2021 Tennessee State Parks Awards of Excellence.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled than to recognize Cummins Falls State Park with our highest award,” Jim Bryson, deputy commissioner of TDEC, said. “The staff at the park have overcome many challenges to make Cummins Falls a more enjoyable destination for visitors while enhancing safety protocols. The park’s numerous programs are especially notable for children. We are proud to name Cummins Falls our most outstanding park of the year.”
Cummins Falls was chosen from among 56 state parks in Tennessee. The park, a rugged, 306-acre day-use destination, has had a significant increase in visitors and has dealt with occasional accidents and medical incidents, sometimes requiring rescue operations. But the staff have responded, managing a permit system to serve a more appropriate number of visitors while enhancing safety protocols and meeting visitor expectations with regard to overcrowding.
The park has used social media to inform people of river conditions, scheduled programs, and activities. It has conducted over 250 interpretation programs that have attracted thousands of participants. It has held day camps for children and school programs, and it has hosted a weekly home-school group.
Among other activities, the park has conducted invasive plant removal and planted native plant species, built a pergola overlooking a meadow, built two greenhouses, and grown and processed sorghum. The park also has a thriving gift shop.
The Tennessee State Parks Awards of Excellence also recognized winners in other categories. They included Hiwassee/Ocoee Scenic River State Park for customer engagement; Pickett CCC Memorial State Park for excellence in facilities management; Warriors’ Path State Park for innovation; Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park for interpretation; Pickwick Landing State Park for sustainability; and Johnsonville State Historic Park for resource management.
The awards were presented at a recent park management conference at Pickwick Landing State Park.
Cummins Falls State Park is honored as the Tennessee State Parks Awards of ExcellencePark of the Year. From left are Jim Bryson, deputy commissioner of TDEC; Ray Cutcher, park manager; Kenny Gragg, area manager; and Mike Robertson, director of operations for Tennessee State Parks.